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Singapore Airlines (SIA) will now stop in-flight meal services whenever the seat-belt sign is on as part of efforts to take a more cautious approach to managing turbulence in the air.

Cabin crew will also sit down and fasten their seat belts when the seat-belt sign is lit, SIA said on Thursday, 23 May 2024, in response to queries from the media.

In the past, only hot drinks were halted during turbulence, but the new measures require all meal and drink services to stop completely when the ride gets bumpy.

Other existing safety measures that activate during poor weather conditions will continue to remain in place.

These measures include having crew members secure loose items in the cabin, advising passengers to return to their seats and fasten their seat belts, and monitoring passengers who may need assistance, such as those in the toilet.

What Led to the New Measures

By now, many of us are aware of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 and the sudden turbulence that occurred over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar about 10 hours into the flight on 21 May.

Altitude data from FlightRadar24 shows how the aircraft was thrust up and down over the course of a minute before returning to its original cruising altitude of 37,000 ft.

When an aircraft encounters turbulence and suddenly moves, anything not secured, such as passengers, can continue moving in the original direction, while the plane moves in another.

This can cause injuries as passengers are thrust towards the ceiling of the aircraft. Loose items such as hand-carried baggage were also flung about the cabin.

Photos from inside the plane showed significant damage: large gashes in the overhead cabin panels, gas masks and panels hanging from the ceiling, and items of hand luggage scattered around.

“Pilots and cabin crew are aware of the hazards associated with turbulence. They are also trained to assist customers and ensure cabin safety throughout the flight,” said SIA.

“SIA will continue to review our processes as the safety of our passengers and crew is of utmost importance.”

SIA had also apologized to an injured passenger from flight SQ321 on Thursday after he complained about the lack of information following a severe turbulence incident. 

The passenger, Mr Davis, expressed frustration about not receiving details on insurance claims or the medical evacuation needed for his wife, who is in intensive care.

Mr Davis, speaking from a wheelchair at Bangkok’s Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, stated, “No information from Singapore at all, not a single word. I need to know, am I going through my insurance? I got no idea. I’m totally in limbo. My wife’s in ICU, she needs a medevac.”

SIA responded, saying it apologises to Mr Keith Davis and his wife, and is providing them with the necessary support and assistance they need during this difficult time. 

The airline mentioned that a customer care representative, trained for such situations, has been in touch with the couple and arrangements have been made for Mr Davis’ family members to travel to Bangkok.

As of Thursday evening, SIA reported that 46 passengers and two crew members were still in hospital receiving medical treatment.

SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong, who visited affected passengers and crew in Bangkok, emphasized that their well-being is a priority and assured them of the airline’s support.

Meanwhile, 131 passengers and 12 crew members from SQ321 arrived in Singapore on a relief flight early Wednesday morning.

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