Singapore Airlines made a smart move after deadly turbulence

  • Singapore Airlines announced it would no longer serve meals when the seatbelt light is on.

  • This comes after a passenger died and dozens were injured on a flight because of severe turbulence.

  • Its swift action to protect the safety of its people and customers is smart and praiseworthy.

Singapore Airlines flight attendants will no longer serve meals when the seatbelt light is on.

Singapore's flag carrier changed its in-flight-service policy to ensure its people's and passengers' safety following a fatal turbulence event on one of its flights Tuesday.

The airline's prohibition on meal service during turbulence joins its existing policies, which already ban hot-beverage service during rough air.

The policy change smartly signals to customers the airline's willingness to act to ensure their safety. In addition, it sends a message to the company's flight attendants that their employer has their safety in mind.

A general view of the cabin of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, which was hit by severe turbulence.
Severe turbulence dislodged oxygen masks and caused injuries to dozens of passengers on Singapore Airlines Flight SQ321.Reuters/Stringer

Getting hit in the face by your seatmate's omelet is not fun, but being flung aloft by turbulence while pushing a metal cart can result in serious injuries. The primary job of a flight attendant isn't to serve drinks or dinner. They are in-flight safety professionals. It's their job to work as a team to get you off the plane quickly and safely in the event of an emergency. And their ability to do so is compromised if they've been injured during meal service.

Singapore Airlines Flight SQ321, about 10 hours into its journey from London to Singapore, encountered sudden, severe turbulence while cruising 37,000 feet above over the Irrawaddy basin in Myanmar. The Boeing 777-300ER, which had 211 passengers and 18 crew members on board, diverted to Thailand and landed safely in Bangkok.

More than 40 injured passengers and crew members were hospitalized, and one passenger, a 73-year-old British man, died. According to hospital officials in Bangkok, 22 of those people suffered spinal injuries, while another six suffered skull or brain injuries.

Two medical professionals stand in front of tents set up to treat the injured of Singapore Airlines Flight 321
Medical professionals at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok assisting Singapore Flight SQ321.Courtesy of Suvarnabhumi Airport

All airlines have a response plan for when the unimaginable happens. Just like the quality of service on flights, some airlines have their act together more than others.

In this case, Singapore responded quickly on social media, posting a series of updates that offered clear and concise information. It followed that up with action by quickly flying a team of staff from Singapore to Bangkok for additional help on the ground and standing up dedicated customer-service teams trained in handling crisis situations. Singapore Airlines also organized emergency flights to get uninjured passengers to their destinations, while flying the families of the injured to Bangkok.

Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong has also met with customers, crew, and their families in Bangkok, the airline said.

Singapore Airlines' response thus far should be commended. Crisis response is difficult in the best of situations. It's remarkable that it could execute its plan so capably on foreign soil.

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