By Mike Dunphy– Listen to your flight attendants the next time they firmly remind you the seat belt light is still on. Not doing so continues lead to bumps, bruises, and potentially worse, as dozens of passengers learned on a Qatar Airways flight last weekend when severe turbulence hit the plane suddenly — and at the worst possible time.
Flight QR932, en route from Doha to Manila, had just begun its descent and, as on most flights, that announcement sent several passengers toward the lavatories and others stood up to stash their carry-ons in the overhead bins. Suddenly a severe “downdraft” shook the Boeing 777, sending passengers tumbling, slamming them into each other and against the cabin walls. More than 40 were reportedly injured, including three children and two flight attendants. Thankfully, most of the injuries were light – the worst were just abrasions – but that was enough to make the pilot request a priority landing.
— 수잔 (@lovesjingjing) September 6, 2015
Some passengers have disputed the time frame of the incident; one posted on Twitter that it actually happened an hour before landing. But the central point remains clear, according to Eric Apolonio, a spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP):
“It (clear air turbulence) can strike even in the absence of clouds. This is the reason why pilots forewarn passengers to always fasten their seatbelts even if the aircraft is on a high altitude flight.”
Qatar Airways, for its part, has emphasized its customer care and proper handling of the incident. In a statement to Doha News, an airline spokesperson said.
“Of those reporting injury, three were sent to the hospital for further evaluation. They were discharged last night after being provided the necessary medical assistance. The safety and well-being of all passengers and crew is our top priority. We remain in touch with affected passengers and crew, and are ready to provide any further assistance required.”
But still, passengers don’t seem to be getting the message about buckling up – or maybe they’re just willing to risk a busted noggin for getting the slightest of head starts in the interminable rush to get off the plane. In February, 11 passengers were injured during a turbulent flight to Honoluluand, last week, a dozen more were injured on an EgyptAir flight to Cairo. Perhaps those slight risks seem worth it because deaths by turbulence are so rare; from 1980 through 2009, there were only three turbulence-related fatalities: one flight attendant and two passengers who were not seatbelted in.
So, one more time: buckle up, people. Save your pain threshold for the customs and passport control lines.