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What air travellers need to know about turbulence

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Passengers from Air Europa flight UX045 wait to board a bus after the flight from Madrid to Montevideo was diverted due to severe turbulence
Credit: Philippine Star/fb


Despite recent high-profile incidents of bumpy flights, air traffic controllers and meteorologists in the Balearic Islands assure passengers that turbulence is not more frequent this summer than usual.


The number of incidents reported is due to more flights, not more turbulence, says Beatriz Gonzalez, spokesperson for USCA in the Balearics. Air traffic controllers haven t observed an increase in turbulence compared to previous years. However, they acknowledge the presence of more unusual weather patterns, like the recent storm that flooded the Son Sant Joan airport in Palma de Mallorca, events typically occurring later in the season.


What is turbulence?

While turbulence near airports is predictable and communicated to pilots, sudden changes in wind speed and direction high in the atmosphere can create unexpected jolts. David Fernandez, a meteorologist at Meteoclim, explains, This is what passengers feel as turbulence. The most intense kind happens when hot and cold air masses meet, creating jet streams.


Air traffic control keeps pilots informed of flight conditions and provides them with reports from other pilots who have followed the same route, for example, if a plane is flying at 37,000 feet and no turbulence is reported at 35,000 feet, the plane will descend.


However, Fernandez points out that – Since the 1970s, there has likely been an increase in turbulence, not just due to more flights, but also related to climate change. This trend is particularly noticeable on transatlantic flights.


Damage caused to the Air Europa flight
Credit: Philippine Star/fb
Follow safety protocols

A recent Air Europa flight from Madrid to Montevideo encountered severe turbulence, injuring 30 passengers and forcing an emergency landing. Thankfully, everyone involved followed safety protocols, like wearing seatbelts, which undoubtedly minimised injuries.


The takeaway for summer travellers? Turbulence is a reality of air travel, but not necessarily a reason to be overly worried. While some bumps may be unavoidable, airlines and air traffic control work diligently to ensure passenger safety. Always follow crew instructions and remain buckled up throughout the flight.


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