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The reported severe turbulence incident on Singapore Airlines that occurred over Malaysia on a flight from London to Singapore and resulted in a death and multiple serious injuries to 71 passengers is a cautionary tale for passengers and airlines alike. Compensation for those physically injured may be available, particularly by such events on international flights.

Understanding Your Rights After a Severe Turbulence Incident

Clear-air turbulence can occur without warning. But it is a known hazard of flying generally, and not always a surprise when it happens.  

Airlines and air traffic control monitor developing weather conditions both with technology and pilot encounters with weather conditions, and make routing decisions accordingly. If airlines have reasonable cause to believe clear air turbulence exists, they should – and often do – instruct passengers to remain seated and buckle up; not merely suggest it, and seek evasive routing if possible.  Of course, even when there is no specific expectation of turbulence, airline passengers should buckle up when seated and stay seated as much as possible. 

The Montreal Convention

The US, UK, and Singapore are all members of a treaty called the Montreal Convention, which may provide passengers compensation from airlines where the turbulence was an “accident,” defined as an “unexpected or unusual” event that is “external to the passenger.” That could depend on whether a court finds the turbulence was sufficiently severe so as not to be common to the ordinary operation of an aircraft. 

The limit of compensation allowed under the Montreal Convention varies daily based on exchange rates, but today is a little over $170,600.  Under that convention, passengers and their estates generally have up to 2 years from the incident to file a claim against the airline for death or physical injury.  However, the treaty does not allow compensation for purely psychic injury.

Passengers injured by such events on domestic flights in the United States may also be able to recover damages, including for emotional or psychic injury, if the airline has not properly monitored weather or taken appropriate evasive action to avoid severe turbulence and/or to warn passengers.

The Experienced Aviation Attorneys at the Stritmatter Firm are Here to Help

If you have any questions, call The Stritmatter Firm for a free consultation with one of our experienced aviation lawyers.