• Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Passengers of turbulence-hit London-Singapore flight offered compensation

Three weeks after the 20 May flight, 11 passengers are still receiving medical care in hospitals in Bangkok, according to the airline.

The interior of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, May 21, 2024. (Photo: Reuters)

By: Vivek Mishra

Singapore Airlines has extended compensation offers to passengers aboard a flight from London to Singapore that faced severe turbulence last month. The incident resulted in numerous injuries and a fatality.

Passengers with minor injuries have been offered £7,874, while those with serious injuries can discuss offers tailored to their specific needs.

Additionally, passengers medically assessed with serious injuries and requiring long-term medical care have been offered an advance payment of £19,685 to address immediate needs. These amounts will be part of any final settlement.

Three weeks after the 20 May flight, 11 passengers are still receiving medical care in hospitals in Bangkok, according to the airline.

A 73-year-old passenger died of a suspected heart attack, and dozens were injured after flight SQ321 encountered what the airline described as sudden, extreme turbulence while flying over Myanmar. It diverted to Bangkok, the Thai capital.

Passengers said crew and those not strapped in left the floor or their seats and slammed into the cabin ceiling, cracking it in places. A Bangkok hospital treating passengers said there were spinal cord, brain, and skull injuries.

Singapore Airlines said it would refund passengers’ airfares and compensate them for the delay in line with European Union or British regulations covering their tickets.

An international agreement, the Montreal Convention, makes airlines liable for physical injuries from accidents on international flights, which can include turbulence, regardless of whether they were negligent.

If passengers file a lawsuit, the airline cannot contest damages up to about £137,795. For greater damages, Singapore Airlines can try to limit liability by proving it took all necessary measures to avoid the turbulence, lawyers say.

Allianz is the lead insurer for the aircraft, sources speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters.

Individuals’ travel insurance policies will probably cover injuries from aircraft turbulence, but policies may vary, the Association of British Insurers said after the incident.

Travel claims lawyer Peter Carter said his Australia-based firm, Carter Capner Law, which represents some passengers, is paying close attention to what accident reports may say about the type of turbulence and whether pilots could have avoided it.

Shares in Singapore Airlines fell 0.4 per cent on Tuesday. The stock remains little changed since the 20 May incident.

CAUSE OF TURBULENCE

In a preliminary report, Singapore’s transport ministry said a rapid change in gravitational force and a drop in altitude of 54 metres probably caused passengers and crew to become airborne.

The plane was probably flying over an area of “developing convective activity,” it said, using a term referring to developing bad weather.

The most common cause of turbulence is unstable weather patterns that trigger storms, which can be detected by weather radar, allowing pilots to fly around potential patches.

Another type, clear air turbulence, is a sudden and severe swirl even where there are no clouds. Such invisible pockets of air are hard to predict.

There were 211 passengers, including many Australians, British, and Singaporeans, and 18 crew members on the flight.

The incident put seatbelt practices in the spotlight, with airlines typically allowing passengers to undo belts during normal cruise conditions, while recommending they keep them on.

Singapore Airlines has not had major incidents in recent years.

An analyst at Singapore-based DBS bank, Jason Sum, said the turbulence incident had not altered the bank’s view on the carrier.

“We anticipate limited negative impact as public perception of the airline’s safety standards and consumer sentiment remains intact,” he told Reuters on Tuesday, adding its crisis management had been “exemplary.”

(Reuters)

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