There are growing calls for airlines to enforce stricter seatbelt rules following concerns about increasing turbulence.

It comes after Singapore Airlines Flight 321 recently experienced a severe plunge, dropping 54 metres due to severe turbulence which left one person dead.

“It seemed like all hell broke loose,” said Beverley Mayers, who was on the flight.

“I really thought the plane was going to snap in half”.

Luckily for Mayers, she walked away unscathed because she was wearing her seatbelt, but not everyone was so fortunate.


Dozens of people were injured after violently being flung up and down in the air, and one person was killed.

“People who didn’t have their seatbelts on were falling,” she said.

The incident is one of several major turbulence-related events this year.

Last week, a Qatar Airways flight from Doha hit unexpected turbulence, injuring 12 passengers. Earlier this year, more than 50 passengers, including Kiwi and Australian citizens, were hurt on a Sydney to Auckland flight after a ten-second drop.

The growing number of incidents has prompted one of the world’s leading aviation experts, Geoffrey Thomas, who was integral in the search for MH370, to call for a change in flight rules while in the sky.

“Airlines need to change their announcement from ‘we recommend’ to ‘it is mandatory to have your seatbelts done up’,” he said.

“With all the incidents that have happened, and all the publicity, to not say mandated is a mistake.”


It has also forced leaders at the International Air Transport Association AGM, the largest gathering of aviation personnel, to address the growing concerns in Dubai this week, including the link to climate change.

Climate change and increased turbulence

Recent studies have found that climate change is contributing to more frequent and severe turbulence.

According to the University of Reading, severe turbulence has increased by 55% in the past 40 years.

This issue was addressed at the International Air Transport Association AGM in Dubai, where experts, airline bosses, and pilots discussed the growing concerns.

IATA Director-General William Walsh said: “Obviously, we will continue to assess the recent events to understand them better and see if there is anything else that can be done.”

Airlines can endure two types of turbulence — predictable convective turbulence caused by storms, and unpredictable clear air turbulence caused by jet streams.


“There is no airborne technology yet fitted to airliners that can detect clear air turbulence,” said Tony Lucas of the Australian & International Pilots Association.

He said while technology catches up, airlines should take proactive measures.

More on this topic

Following their latest incident for example, Singapore Airlines has stopped serving meals and hot drinks when the seatbelt sign is on.

And following on from Thomas’ call, Emirates is enforcing mandatory seatbelts and is urging other airlines to adopt similar practices.

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