Flight attendants at risk for injury by turbulence

Although air travel is one of the safest modes of transportation in today’s world, being a flight attendant has occupational risks that many other lines of work do not. Because working on an airplane regularly involves dealing with turbulence, sometimes so high that it could lead to injury or death, it is one of the challenges you may face as a flight attendant.

What is turbulence?

Turbulence is air movement that happens often unexpectedly that causes the airplane to have a bumpy ride. Passengers and flight attendants who are not buckled up could be thrown from their seats without warning. To protect passengers from turbulence, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires passengers to be seated, with seat belts fastened when the airplane leaves the gate and as it climbs during and after take-off, during landing, during taxi and whenever the fasten seat belt sign is illuminated.

What causes turbulence?

Several conditions can cause turbulence, including:

  • Atmospheric pressure
  • Jet streams
  • Thunderstorms
  • Air around mountains
  • Cold weather fronts
  • Warm weather fronts

How can turbulence injure flight attendants?

Because turbulence can happen unexpectedly, and flight attendants are not in their seats during many parts of the flight as they fulfill duties such as serving passengers, they are at risk for falling, or being thrown by high turbulence. These things can cause a number of injuries, or even death.

Even though two-thirds of turbulence-related accidents happen at or above 30,000 feet in the air, it can still be hard to predict when turbulence will happen. A clear sky is not an indication that turbulence will not happen — the weather doesn’t have to be bad to experience extreme turbulence.

According to the FAA, in-flight turbulence is the leading cause of injuries to both passengers and flight attendants in nonfatal accidents. Turbulence can cause airplanes to have accidents. From 1980 to 2008, U.S. air carriers reported 234 turbulence accidents that resulted in 298 serious injuries and three fatalities. Of the serious injuries, most of the victims were flight attendants: 184 flight attendants and 114 passengers.

Why should a flight attendant hire an attorney after a turbulence injury?

On some airlines, the company doesn’t officially classify a turbulence injury as an on-duty work injury unless the captain classifies the turbulence as “extreme turbulence.” Extreme turbulence is a classification typically given when the captain loses control of the airplane, or the plan gets structurally damaged. According to aircraft rules, if either of those things happen, the airplane has to be grounded and inspected as soon as possible. To avoid grounding an airplane, captains do not easily label turbulence as “extreme turbulence.” It can be rare for them to do so.

If you are a flight attendant, this means if your company does not believe your injury is classified as a work injury, you could be denied your workers’ compensation claim. Getting the legal help from an attorney experienced in working to defend the rights of flight attendants injured on the job could be the difference between getting your claim approved or denied.

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