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Malaysia Airlines MH1: Passengers injured in severe turbulence


(Please note, this matter is not currently being litigated in Australia)

‘Severe turbulence’ on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH1 – Liability of airlines to passengers injured in ‘severe turbulence’ 

The episode of ‘severe turbulence’ on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH1 on Monday, 6 June 2016 between London and Kuala Lumpur is yet another incident to dog Malaysia Airlines in the wake of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014.

Malaysia Airlines itself used its own official Twitter account to acknowledge the ‘severe turbulence’ - and that affected passengers had suffered minor injuries.

Reports are still uncertain as to the exact amount of passengers affected and the scope of their injuries. However, in similar circumstances airlines have been held accountable to provide compensation to injured passengers who have suffered bodily injuries following episodes of ‘severe turbulence.’

Previous legal cases

In the case of Magan v Lufthansa German Airlines (2002) U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, the court held that passengers who were injured in ‘severe turbulence’ during the course of an international flight were entitled to claim compensation arising from their bodily injuries. But this did not include injuries sustained in the course of ‘light’ or ‘moderate’ turbulence.

In addition, the court also adopted the turbulence classification system of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States of America which classifies ‘severe turbulence’ as being –

…Severe turbulence “causes large, abrupt changes in altitude and/or attitude [and] usually causes large variations in indicated air speed.”

Severe turbulence may cause the airplane to be “momentarily out of control.”

Passengers in a plane subjected to severe turbulence “are forced violently against seat belts or shoulder straps. Unsecured objects are tossed about. Food service and walking are impossible.”

Ultimately, whether or not this classification meets the circumstances of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH1 on Monday, 6 June 2016 will be dependent on the accounts of passengers and crew as to the severity of the turbulence, however, the statements of Malaysia Airlines on their official Twitter account are indicative that the turbulence was in fact ‘severe’.

(Please note that this article is not intended as legal advice, and is for educational purposes only. Please contact the writer for additional information).

Article written by Thomas Janson, Aviation Law Expert

Written by Shine Lawyers on June 9, 2016. Last modified: September 6, 2018.

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