Worst Flight Ever: United Airlines Passengers Hospitalized After Extreme Turbulence

Extreme turbulence sends 10 United Airlines passengers to the hospital
After experiencing severe turbulence during a flight, 9 United Airlines passengers are sent to the hospital, on June 20. Rick Kern/Getty Images

A stretch of severe turbulence during a flight resulted in some United Airlines customers having to be hospitalized as soon as their plane landed Monday, according to Reuters.

Travelers heading to Houston from Panama City, Panama, on United Flight 1031 suffered through 80 miles of extreme turbulence, causing injuries to 10 people. Paramedics who arrived at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday said that at least nine travelers and one crew member were injured during the ride, and three of them were taken to a local hospital upon arrival in Houston.

The Boeing 737 experienced a bout of severe turbulence while flying over Mexico, about 80 miles east of Cancun, Lynn Lunsford, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson told Reuters in an email. The aircraft had a safe landing around 2:30 p.m.

The passengers’ injuries have yet to be reported.

It’s common for airplanes to experience turbulence, which can cause the plane to rock or shake any time an aircraft flies through upward and downward currents from thunderclouds. When pilots are aware of bad weather, they will typically warn travelers of the chances of turbulence during a flight, but sometimes turbulence can occur in cloudless skies with perfect visibility.

Weather radar on planes are unable to pick up signs of clear-air turbulence, which, in essence, makes it harder for a pilot to flag customers of the bumpy ride ahead and to instruct them to return to their seats and buckle up. Although only about 58 fliers a year are hurt by turbulence, according to the FAA, it’s usually clear-air turbulence that causes the most harm. In most cases, injuries due to turbulence happen when a plane is flying at 30,000 feet or above, the department said.

United’s latest encounter with forceful turbulence comes just one month after 27 people were injured following a bumpy Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Bangkok, according to CNN. The plane unexpectedly hit an “airhole” as it neared the Suvarnabhumi Airport in early May, causing some passengers to suffer serious fractures and bruising.

Fifteen passengers, many of whom were not wearing seatbelts, had to be taken to the hospital immediately following the flight due to injuries. Customers on the airplane told CNN at the time that some passengers were thrown from their seats when the plane hit severe turbulence.

Some of the customers had to undergo surgery due to the extent of their injuries.