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The aircraft stayed at 31,000 feet for just under 10 minutes before rapidly descending and landing in Bangkok in just under half an hour.

Passenger Andrew Davies, from Lewisham, south-east London, said there was little warning before the turbulence hit.

“The seatbelt sign came on, I put on my seatbelt on straight away, then the plane just dropped,” he said.

Davies posted photos to X of disembarking the flight and the holding area at the airport in Bangkok for uninjured passengers.

“[There were] lots of people injured – including the air stewards who were stoic and did everything they could,” Davies said.

“Head lacerations, bleeding ears. A lady was screaming in pain with a bad back.“

Describing the scene as “surreal”, he said coffee and water splattered the ceiling as the plane dropped.

“One of the Singapore Airlines crew said it was by far the worst in her 30 years of flying,” he said. “[The] lesson is wear a seatbelt at all times.”

Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student on board the flight, recounted how the aircraft started “tilting up” and “shaking”.

“I started bracing for what was happening, and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling,” Azmir said.

“Some people hit their heads on the baggage cabins overhead and dented it, they hit the places where lights and masks are and broke straight through it.”

Singapore’s Minister for Transport Chee Hong Tat said in addition to Singapore Airlines, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Changi Airport officials were all providing support to the affected passengers and their families.

“My deepest condolences to the family of the deceased,” he added.

South-East Asia is currently experiencing a series of tropical storms. The London Telegraph reported that a British Airways flight was last week forced to return to Singapore after heavy turbulence.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Australian embassy in Bangkok and the high commission in Singapore were making urgent inquiries to ascertain whether any Australians were affected by the incident.

Australians affected should contact the Australian government’s 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas or 1300 555 135 from within Australia.

Fatalities rare in turbulence-related incidents

Fatalities are extremely rare in incidents of turbulence, particularly during travel at cruising altitude that’s considered the most stable part of the journey. Carriers routinely caution passengers to keep their seat belts fastened even when the warning signs have been switched off.

Even so, turbulence-related airline accidents are the most common type, according to a 2021 study by the National Transportation Safety Board. From 2009 through to 2018, the US agency found that turbulence accounted for more than a one-third of reported airline accidents and most resulted in one or more serious injuries, but no serious aircraft damage.

About 240 events of severe turbulence were reported to European manufacturer Airbus between 2014 and 2018, with injuries to passengers and crew occurring on 30 per cent of long-haul flights where such events were reported, and 12 per cent of short-haul flights, according to a briefing document.

A study by Reading University in the UK and published in 2023 said that clear-air turbulence, which is invisible, had increased with climate change. While the US and North Atlantic had seen the biggest increase, routes over Europe, the Middle East and South Atlantic had also seen significant rises in turbulence.

What causes turbulence?

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