Singapore Airlines chief issues video apology for passengers’ ‘traumatic experience’ on deadly flight

One British passenger has died and dozens more were injured when the flight hit extreme turbulence over Bay of Bengal

Namita Singh
Wednesday 22 May 2024 06:49 BST
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Singapore Airlines CEO apologises for ‘traumatic’ flight after turbulence leaves one dead

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Singapore Airlines’ chief executive has issued a video apology to the passengers on board Tuesday’s flight battered by deadly turbulence over the Indian Ocean.

One British passenger died and dozens more were injured when Flight SQ321 encountered severe turbulence en route from London Heathrow to Singapore, sending passengers crashing out of their seats into the light fittings and overhead lockers above.

The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangkok and seven of the 30 people wounded remain in hospital there in a serious condition, Bangkok airport’s general manager told a news conference on Wednesday. Passengers who were not injured have now reached Singapore on a relief flight.

"We are very sorry for the traumatic experience that everyone on board SQ321 went through," Goh Choon Phong said in a video shared on social media by the airline.

Mr Phong offered his condolences to the family of the British passenger who died on the flight, now identified as 73-year-old Geoffrey Kitchen. Mr Kitchen had been travelling with his wife for a planned tour of Asia, described by a member of the family as their “last big holiday” together.

“We are deeply saddened by this incident,” Mr Phong. “It has resulted in one confirmed fatality and multiple injuries. On behalf of Singapore Airlines, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased.”

In a two-minute-49-second video posted on Singapore Airlines page, he assured that they are working to provide all possible assistance to their passengers and crew members.

Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, which was headed to Singapore from London before making an emergency landing in Bangkok due to severe turbulence, is seen on the tarmac at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok on 22 May 2024
Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, which was headed to Singapore from London before making an emergency landing in Bangkok due to severe turbulence, is seen on the tarmac at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok on 22 May 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)

A relief flight with 143 passengers and crew members arrived in Singapore around 5am this morning, Mr Phong said, adding that 79 passengers and six crew member remain in Bangkok and are receiving medical care.

According to the airline, Flight SQ321 was carrying 47 British nationals, 56 Australians, two Canadians, one German, three Indians, two Indonesians, one Icelander, four Irish, one Israeli, 16 Malaysians, two from Myanmar, 23 New Zealanders, five Filipinos, 41 from Singapore, one South Korean, two Spaniards and four from the United States.

(AP)

Passengers who arrived at Singapore‘s Changi Airport this morning were greeted by Mr Phong and their family members, some with tears of joy and relief. They were escorted out and didn’t talk to the media.

“Singapore Airlines will extend all possible support to them,” he said. “We are fully cooperating with the relevant authorities on the investigation.”

Officials from the British and Malaysian embassies in Bangkok visited Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital on Wednesday to check on the injured. British officials were taken to the ninth floor, which hosts the hospital’s intensive care unit along with pediatric surgery and bone marrow transplant wards. Hospital officials said 61 of the injured were being treated there and 10 had been transferred to other hospitals in its network.

Passengers of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, which made an emergency landing in Bangkok on its flight from London to Singapore, greet family members upon arrival at Changi Airport in Singapore, 22 May 2024
Passengers of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, which made an emergency landing in Bangkok on its flight from London to Singapore, greet family members upon arrival at Changi Airport in Singapore, 22 May 2024 (EPA)

British passenger Andrew Davies told Sky News that the seatbelt sign was illuminated but crew members didn’t have time to take their seats.“Every single cabin crew person I saw was injured in some way or another, maybe with a gash on their head,” Mr Davies said. “One had a bad back, who was in obvious pain.”

Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student on the flight, told ABC News: “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.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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