Several American Airlines Flight Attendants Taken to Hospital After Turbulent Descent Saturday Morning

Friday night’s American Airlines Dallas – Buenos Aires hit severe turbulence. I heard that flight attendants hit the ceiling and that they were even hospitalized.

I asked American about the flight and spokesperson Casey Norton told me,

American Airlines flight 997 from Dallas/Fort Worth to Buenos Aires briefly encountered severe turbulence during its descent. The flight landed safely and was met by paramedics. Five flight attendants were transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. All passengers were safely deplaned and none reported injuries or requested medical evaluation.

Norton also let me know that “one flight attendant reported a possible shoulder injury. The others requested further evaluation out of an abundance of caution. The seat belt sign was illuminated at the time.”

I assume this explained the unusual flight path close to arrival.

Obviously this is unusual, but severe turbulence happens. Fortunately the seat belt sign was on at the time, and so passengers were presumably belted in. That prevented injury.

Most of the time severe turbulence comes with warning, either from other aircraft or because it isn’t completely sudden. That means the pilot has the opportunity to turn on the seat belt sign and warn passengers.

However severe turbulence does happen without warning. And while it isn’t usually a danger to the aircraft, it’s certainly a danger to passengers. That’s why it’s imperative to stay belted in even when the seat belt sign isn’t on.

It’s easy to forget incidents like Singapore Airlines SQ308 Singapore – London in mid-2013 where 11 passengers were injured and the plane’s ceiling was covered in coffee. Here are photos from that incident:

When the seat belt sign is on, wear your seat belt. When the seat belt sign is off, but you’re in your seat wear your seat belt. That advice isn’t helpful to the crew, since they have duties to perform even in many cases while the seat belt sign is illuminated.

So I wish the crew of AA997 a speedy recovery, and a thanks to the reserve crew who flew down to Buenos Aires to pick up the return trip that the Friday night’s flight attendants would have flown.

(HT: Demetrius)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Ouch! Good advice on keeping your belt on. I do loosen it a bit in smooth air, but these days I feel a bit naked without it on.

  2. My wife and I had this happen once on a TATL when we were over Greenland. It was toward the end of the meal service and there was a very sharp series of drops for about 30 seconds. This was a UA 777 and we were in C all buckled in. While it was scary where we were, the injuries seemed to come from the back of the plane and we didn’t actually see them. While the injuries weren’t severe enough to warrant an immediate landing, we did land in Montreal (flight was headed to LAX) and emergency crews took off at least 10 people–mainly FAs.

    I’d always been pretty good about buckling in, but this re-doubled my efforts with that.

  3. I have and continue to fly more miles than I wish. I never take my seat belt, unless I find the need to use the toilet. Even on long hauls, when using lay-flats, I keep my belt secured.

    My biggest concerns are those passengers who still refuse to us their belts and clutter their space with a plethora of unsecured gadgets and notebooks. I have been aboard too many flights when unexpected moderate turbulence has caused stumbling and falling pax and flying objects.

    I look forward to the time when I can substantially reduce my flying time.

  4. Hi, I was one of the injured passengers of that flight and I can tell you that seat belt sign was ON almost the entire flight and, as you may understand, a 10 hours flight requires at least a visit to the toilet. I did that on that exact moment and bumped my head 3 times with the ceiling…visiting doctors now.
    Such a bad experience.

  5. My fav part use to be the dissention of the plane. Now, I have no fav parts about flying except getting to my destination unharmed.

  6. I was on this flight. Many passengers did not have their belts on and hit the ceiling along with drinks and food. Some people ended up in rows they did not start, landing on other passengers. This included an infant. Many passengers reported injuries but the most serious did seem to be sustained by the attendants that were in the galley area with the serving carts flying around. When we landed, passengers were asked to remain in their seats so paramedics could get to injured passengers as well as attendants. In closing, I want to state that I was very impressed with the professionalism of the attendants and the pilot that was speaking over the intercom system. The all displayed explanatory professionalism. Thank you.

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