Singapore Airlines is offering compensation to passengers on flights experiencing extreme turbulence

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Singapore Airlines said Tuesday it has offered compensation to passengers on a flight that was hit by extreme turbulence last month, in a rare case that killed one passenger and injured dozens.

The Being 777 jet, with 211 passengers and 18 crew on board from London to Singapore, collided with sudden turbulence over the Irrawaddy Basin on May 20, throwing people and belongings through the cabin. The plane was diverted to Thailand.

A 73-year-old British man died of a suspected heart attack and dozens were hospitalized, including people with spinal, brain, bone or organ damage. Nineteen people remained in hospital in Bangkok.

Singapore Airlines said it has offered $10,000 in compensation for passengers with minor injuries.

“For those who suffered more serious injuries from the incident, we have invited them to discuss a compensation offer to meet each of their specific circumstances, when they feel well and ready,” the report said in a statement.

Those medically diagnosed as having suffered serious injuries, requiring long-term medical care and applying for financial assistance will receive a $25,000 advance for their immediate needs, the report said. “This will be part of the final compensation these passengers will receive,” the report said.

The airline said it will also provide full refunds of airfares to all passengers on the flight, including those without any injuries. All passengers will also receive delay compensation in accordance with European Union or United Kingdom regulations, the report said.

The airline added that it had already given all passengers 1,000 Singapore dollars ($739) for their immediate needs, covered the medical costs of injured passengers and arranged for their relatives and loved ones to fly to Bangkok upon request.

A preliminary investigation by Singapore's Ministry of Transport shows that the plane experienced huge swings in g-force in less than five seconds, likely causing injuries to people who were not strapped into their seats. It said the plane fell 180 feet (54 meters) in less than a second, which “probably caused the unrestrained occupants to become airborne” before falling back down.

Officials said the turbulence likely hit when meals were being served and many people were not using seat belts. Passengers have the “ pure terror ” from the shaking plane, loose objects flying and injured people lying paralyzed on the floor of the plane.

It was unclear what caused the turbulence. Most people associate turbulence with heavy storms, but the most dangerous type is so-called clear air turbulence. Such turbulence can occur in wispy cirrus clouds or even in clear air near thunderstorms, because differences in temperature and pressure create powerful currents of fast-moving air.

According to a 2021 report from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, turbulence was responsible for 37.6% of all accidents at larger commercial airlines between 2009 and 2018. The Federal Aviation Administration has said there were 146 serious injuries caused by turbulence between 2009 and 2021 turbulence.

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