Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, operating from London’s Heathrow International Airport (LHR) to Singapore (SIN) yesterday, encountered severe turbulence over Thai airspace. The plane diverted to Bangkok and landed at 3:45pm local time.

According to Singapore Airlines’ Facebook page, “We can confirm that there are multiple injuries and one fatality on board the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. As of 1950hrs Singapore time on 21 May 2024, 18 individuals have been hospitalised. Another 12 are being treated in hospitals. The remaining passengers and crew are being examined and given treatment, where necessary, at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok.”

According to reporting from Reuters, Suvarnabhumi airport general manager Kittipong Kittikachorn told a press conference that “a 73-year-old British man died during the incident, likely due to a heart attack.”

Below is video of passengers being taken off the plane.

YouTube video

There were 211 passengers and 18 crew on board. According to FlightAware, the flight took 11 hours and seven minutes and there was bad weather in the area; see screenshot below.

Severe turbulence isn’t common, but it does seem to be happening more and more, thanks to climate change. In December 2022, Hawaiian Airlines experienced severe turbulence shortly before landing in Honolulu. Thirty-six people received medical treatment for bumps, bruises, cuts and nausea. Twenty people were taken to hospitals, including 11 in serious condition.

In March of 2023, a Bombardier executive jet experienced severe turbulence over New England, “causing a rare passenger death and forcing the aircraft to divert to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut,” per ABC News. The person who died was not wearing a seatbelt.

If you’re worried about flying and turbulence, just know that the FAA collects turbulence-related data and says: “Data from the Federal Aviation Administration shows that severe injuries from turbulence are rare, with 163 cases recorded between 2009 and 2022,” per NBC News.

I used to be afraid to fly and even light turbulence freaked me out but it doesn’t anymore. However, I do get spooked from severe turbulence, which is why I make sure I’m always wearing my seatbelt while seated. I’ve read too many horror stories like this one from people getting severely injured for not wearing theirs. It’s also the reason why many experts don’t recommend lap babies.

To help ease your nervousness, a popular TikToker and commercial pilot from Australia created a short 57-second video that went viral last year when he filmed himself going through severe turbulence as a passenger. Jimmy Nicholson captioned the video, saying: “Horrible turbulence on our flight today. I’m a pilot and actually fly this aircraft type (Airbus). Here’s why you have nothing to worry about.” Here’s the story and his tips.

On Facebook, Singapore Airlines posted this: “Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased. We deeply apologise for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight. We are providing all necessary assistance during this difficult time. We are working with our colleagues and the local authorities in Thailand to provide the necessary assistance. A Singapore Airlines team is on the way to Bangkok to provide any additional assistance needed.

Relatives seeking information may call the Singapore Airlines hotlines at +65 6542 3311 (Singapore), 1800-845-313 (Australia), and 080-0066-8194 (the United Kingdom).”

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