What Passengers Should Know About Air Turbulence

Turbulence is a word used to describe the movement of air. Not all turbulence is dangerous. A bumpy ride on a plane is attributable to mild turbulence. Severe turbulence is dangerous, however, and it can happen without warning, even on a sunny day. When such turbulence happens, any passengers who are not seat belted at that moment can suddenly be thrown violently about inside the aircraft cabin, seriously injuring themselves and others.

Statistically, more flight attendants than passengers are injured by sudden turbulence each year. That's not surprising, considering that attendants spend hours on their feet during each flight.

Some sobering facts about turbulence:

  • Most injuries related to turbulence happen at or above 30,000 feet.
  • About 58 people are injured by turbulence each year, in the United States, because they were not wearing their seat belts.
  • A total of 29 serious injuries and three deaths resulted from turbulence on U.S. airlines in the 30 years between 1980 and 2008.
  • Of those 298 incidents, 114 involved passengers, but 184 involved flight attendants.
  • At least two of the three people whose deaths were turbulence related were not wearing their seat belts when the turbulence occurred, even though the fasten-seat-belt sign was illuminated at the time.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that you keep your seat belt fastened:

  • When gate, taking off and landing.
  • While climbing after take-off.
  • Anytime the aircraft is taxiing.
  • Whenever the seat belt sign is lit during your flight.