Singapore Airlines offers Sh1.3m to passengers hurt by turbulence

Officials gather around the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER airplane as it is parked on the tarmac at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok on May 22, 2024. [AFP]

Singapore Airlines (SIA) said Tuesday it had offered $10,000 in compensation to passengers who suffered minor injuries on a flight hit by extreme turbulence last month and will discuss higher payouts with those more badly hurt. 

A 73-year-old British man died and several other passengers and crew onboard flight SQ321 from London suffered skull, brain and spine injuries during the terrifying high-altitude ordeal.

The pilots diverted the Singapore-bound Boeing 777-300ER carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew to Bangkok, where the injured were taken to hospitals.

In a statement on Tuesday, SIA said it had sent out emails offering $10,000 in compensation to passengers who sustained minor injuries during the incident.

"For those who sustained more serious injuries... we have invited them to discuss a compensation offer to meet each of their specific circumstances when they feel well and ready to do so," the airline said.

"Passengers medically assessed as having sustained serious injuries, requiring long-term medical care, and requesting financial assistance are offered an advance payment of US$25,000 to address their immediate needs.

"This will be part of the final compensation that these passengers will receive."

In addition, the carrier said it would refund the airfares of all passengers on the flight, including those who were not injured.

"All passengers will also receive delay compensation in accordance with the relevant European Union or United Kingdom regulations," it said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 11 passengers from the flight were still receiving treatment in hospitals in Bangkok, a SIA spokesperson told AFP.

Under the Montreal Convention, airlines are liable for damages for the injury or death of passengers while on an airplane.

"The compensation amounts are determined by the severity of each passenger's injuries, based on the information provided thus far by the respective medical institutions," the spokesperson said.

"We recognise that passengers with more serious injuries may require further support tailored to their individual circumstances."

SIA earlier gave Sg$1,000 ($740) to each passenger departing Bangkok for their final destination to cover their immediate expenses.

It has also been shouldering the medical expenses of the injured passengers, and had arranged for their family members to fly to Bangkok when requested.

"SIA remains committed to supporting the affected passengers who were on board SQ321," the airline said.

Singapore’s transport ministry has said a sudden 54-metre (177-foot) altitude drop caused unbelted passengers on the flight to be thrown violently inside the cabin.

The aircraft experienced a "rapid change" in gravitational force, or G-force, while it was passing over the south of Myanmar, the ministry said, citing a preliminary report by Singapore's Transport Safety Investigation Bureau.

The investigation team included experts from the TSIB, the US National Transportation Safety Board, the US Federal Aviation Administration and the plane's manufacturer Boeing.

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