Turbulence is the term in the aircraft industry used to describe pockets where the airflow is disrupted and irregular. From a pilot’s point of view, turbulence can be a challenge to handle. From a passenger’s point of view, turbulence usually equals a bumpy ride and a few frayed nerves — although, on occasion, it ends up leading to injuries.
You don’t often hear about serious injuries from turbulence, which is why a flight from Moscow to Bangkok recently made international news after at least 27 passengers were injured when the plane hit a pocket of disrupted air.
In about 10 seconds of time, passengers were thrown out of their seats, knocked down in the aisles and many were left battered and bruised. Some suffered broken bones, and others were so injured that they required surgery and hospitalization.
This could become something that’s far less of a rarity, according to scientists. Many say that climate change is going to increase the amount of clear-air turbulence pilots can expect to see, and severe turbulence may increase by as much as 149 percent, particularly along routes between Europe and North America. Clear-air turbulence, which is caused by exceptionally rapid changes in the speed or direction that the air is moving without the visible signs you can detect in a storm, is what caused the recent injuries on the Bangkok flight.
There are times where nothing can be done to prevent injuries. However, as severe turbulence becomes more common, airlines should become more cautious about their passenger’s safety. If a pocket of turbulence causes improperly secured luggage to fall and injure a passenger, he or she might have a viable lawsuit against the airline. Similarly, unsecured carts or other objects in the aisle could also lead to injuries for which the airline is responsible.
It may also be possible to hold an airline accountable for not giving passengers adequate warning of the dangers of turbulence. Many passengers only think that turbulence is something that can be encountered during bad weather — if they’ve never heard of clear-air turbulence, they can’t really assess the risk of taking off their safety belts in the middle of a flight.
If you’re seriously injured due to turbulence in-flight, consider talking to an attorney with aviation accident experience to discuss your case.