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Airlines to tighten seat belt rules and use AI to predict turbulence

The death of a Singapore Airlines passenger in a serious turbulence incident last month is likely to lead to stricter rules on the use of seat belts, according to Emirates’ chairman.

Emirati newspaper The National reported that Tim Clark made the comments during a press conference on Sunday in Dubai during the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association.

“The entire industry is now working to make sure passengers are seated and buckled in,” Clark said, according to The National.

This follows three incidents of severe turbulence last month. A 73-year-old British man died and 71 other people 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 that 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 is going to start being a lot more concerned with making sure people are in their place and strapped in.”

Singapore Airlines announced it would no longer serve meals when the seat belt sign is on, changing its policy following the incident.

“We’re trying to use a little bit of AI” to predict where the turbulence might be, Clark also said.

Serious injuries from turbulence are incredibly rare, and not wearing a seat belt is the biggest risk factor. But sometimes there isn’t enough time between the panel turning on and the onset of turbulence for passengers to buckle in.

Clear-air turbulence, which occurs in cloud-free conditions at high altitudes, can be particularly sudden. An increase in incidents is linked to the climate crisis, which has changed wind dynamics.

A 2023 study by researchers at Britain’s University of Reading found that in 1979, there were about 17.7 hours of severe turbulence at an average point over the Atlantic Ocean. In 2020, this duration increased to 27.4 hours, an increase of 55%.


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