A Singapore airline aircraft is seen on tarmac after requesting an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, May 21, 2024. Image Credit: Pongsak Suksi/Handout via Reuters


  • 70-year old British man dies, 30 hurt after plane hits turbulence 
  • Flight from London forced to divert to Bangkok
  • Passenger describes how people hit overhead lockers

Bangkok: One passenger was killed and 30 injured after a Singapore Airlines flight from London hit severe turbulence en route on Tuesday, forcing it to make an emergency landing in Bangkok, officials and the airline said.

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Emergency vehicles raced onto the tarmac at the Thai capital's main airport with lights flashing and sirens blaring after Singapore-bound flight SQ321 touched down at 3:45 pm (0845 GMT).

It is the latest drama involving a Boeing plane, after a fuselage panel blew out of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX in January as well as two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

Airline offers its deepest condolences

Singapore Airlines said the flight took off from London's Heathrow airport and "encountered severe turbulence en route". The carrier said "18 individuals have been hospitalised. Another 12 are being treated in hospitals," without giving details of the nature and severity of the injuries.

"Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased. We deeply apologise for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight," the airline said, adding it was working with Thai authorities to provide all necessary assistance.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, May 21, 2024. Image Credit: Reuters/Stringer

The flight's journey

The widebody aircraft with 211 passengers and 18 crew on board was traveling from London Heathrow and diverted to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport after encountering the turbulence.

The flight fell into an air pocket while cabin crew was serving breakfast before it encountered turbulence, prompting the pilots to request an emergency landing, Suvarnabhumi airport general manager Kittipong Kittikachorn told a press conference.

Flight tracking data suggested the plane dropped more than 1,800 metres (6,000 feet) in just five minutes over the Andaman Sea.

The spokesperson for FlightRadar 24 said with regard to data showing a drop in height, "our initial thinking is the turbulence event is prior to the standard descent from 37,000 to 31,000 feet. That appears to just be a flight level change in preparation for landing."

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand May 21, 2024. Image Credit: Obtained by Reuters

British man likely died of heart attack

The 73-year-old British man died during the incident, likely due to a heart attack, the authorities said. Seven people were critically injured with head injuries.

Eighteen people have been hospitalised and 12 are being treated in hospitals, Singapore Airlines said.

The incident came as parts of Thailand were buffeted by thunderstorms as the country's annual rainy season gets under way.

"At 3:35 pm the airport received a distress call from the Singapore Airlines flight saying there were passengers on board injured by turbulence, and requesting an emergency landing," Suvarnabhumi Airport said in a statement.

"The plane landed at the airport and the medical team was sent to treat all the injured."

‘Aircraft was shaking, people hit their heads’

A passenger who was on the flight told Reuters that the incident involved the sensation of rising then falling.

"Suddenly the aircraft starts tilting up and there was shaking so I started bracing for what was happening, and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing a seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling," Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student on board the flight told Reuters.

"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," he said.

Kittikachorn said most of the passengers he had spoken to had been wearing their seatbelts.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, May 21, 2024. R Image Credit: Reuters/Stringer

Images show damage inside plane

Unverified photos posted on social media showed food and other loose items strewn across the cabin floor.

Singapore news outlet CNA carried blurry pictures supplied by readers that it said appeared to be from the flight. They showed anxious passengers clinging to seats, with oxygen masks hanging from above, personal items strewn across the aisle and rubbish spilled on the floor of the cabin crew area.


Turbulence-related airline accidents are the most common type, according to a 2021 study by the National Transportation Safety Board.

From 2009 through 2018, the US agency found that turbulence accounted for more than a third of reported airline accidents and most resulted in one or more serious injuries, but no aircraft damage.

Singapore Airlines, which is widely recognized as one of world's leading airlines and is a benchmark for much of the industry, has not had any major incidents in recent years.

Its last accident resulting in casualties was a flight from Singapore to Los Angeles via Taipei, where it crashed on Oct 31, 2000 into construction equipment on the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport after attempting to take off from the wrong runway. The crash killed 83 of the 179 people on board.

Singapore Airlines has had seven accidents according to records by the Aviation Safety Network.

Boeing woes

US aviation giant Boeing has been rocked by a series of problems in recent years and in March announced the departure of CEO Dave Calhoun as it faces intense scrutiny on safety and manufacturing standards.

The change in leadership came in the wake of the near-catastrophic incident in January when a fuselage panel on a Boeing 737 MAX 9 Alaska Airlines jet blew off mid-flight.

This photo released by the National Transportation Safety Board shows a gaping hole where the paneled-over door had been at the fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, Jan. 7, 2024 Image Credit: AP

Fatal crashes in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019 - which killed 346 people in total - led to a lengthy grounding for the 737 MAX fleet worldwide.

The company has a late May deadline to present a plan required by the US Federal Aviation Administration, which has capped MAX production until the company shows progress on safety and quality control.

In July, the US Justice Department will make a final determination on whether to criminally prosecute Boeing.

And in September, the company faces a potential strike of 30,000 workers if it is unable to reach a contract with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.