A passenger onboard an Emirates flight from Los Angeles to Dubai was left with a “very painful” fractured ankle after severe turbulence flung her into the air while she was using the lavatory. A final report from the Air Accident Investigation Section of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) found that the flight carried onto Dubai with over 13-hours left despite the passenger not being able to move her foot.
Moderate to severe turbulence struck Emirates flight EK216 from Los Angeles to Dubai just over an hour and a half into the 15-hour flight as the Airbus A380 flew across the Rocky Mountains. As soon as the “clear air” turbulence struck, the pilots turned on the fasten seat belt signs on and called for cabin crew to take their seats because it was so severe.
Of the 333 passengers and 24 crew members onboard the February 2, 2020 flight only one was injured. The injured passenger was using a lavatory at the back of the Economy Class cabin when the turbulence threw her up into the air. When she touched the ground she twisted her ankle and was later treated for a serious fracture.
Cabin crew provided medical aid but a decision was made to continue flying to Dubai for another 13 and a half hours. Typically, in circumstances involving a serious injury, cabin crew would have sought medical guidance from on-call doctors on the ground who would have recommended treatment options, including pain relief, before making a recommendation as to whether diversion for medical treatment was necessary.
The Captain decided to continue the flight because the passenger’s injury was not life-threatening.
While the other passengers and crew had the benefit of strapping themselves in with seat belts, the accident investigators raised concern about how passengers are meant to secure themselves in the event of turbulence when using a lavatory.
Although most onboard lavatories are fitted with handholds, the investigators noted that the injured passenger wasn’t able to make use of the single handhold in the lavatory she was using because it was behind her and inaccessible.
After a very similar injury onboard an earlier Emirates flight, accident investigators have now recommended to the airline to fit more handholds in passenger lavatories. Placarded instructions may also soon appear, telling passengers how to use the handholds should turbulence suddenly strike when they’re in the lavatory.
There was no prior warning that turbulence could affect the flight and the report concluded that crew followed standard operating procedures in dealing with the incident.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.