Airlines to tighten seatbelt rules and use AI to predict turbulence after Singapore Airlines incident, Emirates boss says

  • The Singapore Airlines severe turbulence incident may lead to tighter seatbelt rules.

  • Tim Clark of Emirates highlighted the industry's response at the International Air Transport Association meeting.

  • He said the airline was looking at AI to help predict where turbulence might occur.

The death of a Singapore Airlines passenger in a severe turbulence incident last month is likely to lead to stricter seatbelt rules, according to the president of Emirates.

Emirati newspaper The National reported that Tim Clark made the comments during a Sunday media conference in Dubai at the International Air Transport Association's annual meeting.

"The whole industry is now upping the game in regards to making sure that passengers are seated and strapped in," Clark said, per The National.

It comes after last month saw three incidents of severe turbulence. A 73-year-old British man died and 71 others were injured on Singapore Airlines Flight 321 on May 21.

Six days later, 12 people were injured by turbulence on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin. And on May 28, local media reported a Turkish Airlines flight attendant broke her back due to turbulence.

According to The National, Clark said that as a result of the incidents, "The industry will start being a lot more concerned about making sure that people are in their seats and strapped in."

Singapore Airlines announced it would no longer serve meals when the seatbelt sign is on, changing its policy as a result of the incident.

"We're trying to use a bit of AI" to predict where turbulence might be, Clark also said.

Severe injuries due to turbulence are incredibly rare, and not wearing a seatbelt is the biggest risk factor. But sometimes there isn't enough time between turning the sign on and the onset of turbulence for passengers to strap in.

Clear air turbulence, which occurs in cloudless conditions at a high altitude, can be especially sudden. A rise in incidents has been linked to the climate crisis, which has altered wind dynamics.

A 2023 study by researchers at the UK's University of Reading found that in 1979, there were around 17.7 hours of severe turbulence over an average point above the Atlantic Ocean. By 2020, this had jumped to 27.4 hours, an increase of 55%.

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