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Last Friday, 22 passengers and two flight attendants were injured when a JetBlue flight suddenly encountered a bad thunderstorm — and as a result, extreme turbulence — on its way from Boston to Sacramento. The plane was eventually diverted to Rapid City.
“People were flying out of their seat belts and hitting their heads on the ceiling; it was very scary,” passenger Eileen Lynch told CNN before describing the experience as being like Disney’s “Tower of Terror” ride.
With safety in mind, we reached out to everyone’s favorite flight attendant insider, Carrie A. Trey, to find out what passengers should do when the plane starts rocking at 35,000 feet. Here are her best tips for dealing with turbulence in the following situations:
While You’re on Your Way Back to Your Seat
Three words: Just. Sit. Down. “Take the nearest seat and don’t get up until it’s safe to do so,” said Trey. “This is what we are trained to do if we can’t make it to a jump seat, and the same goes for passengers. Sit down and stay down.”
While You’re in the Restroom
While you may think the airplane lavatory is an awkward place to have to hunker down during turbulence, it’s actually one of the best (who knew?)
“This is admittedly one of the safer places to be in turbulence if you’re not in your seat,” said Trey. “Airplane bathrooms are getting smaller by the minute, which is generally not a good thing — in turbulence, however, it means there’s less space to bounce around. Put down the toilet lid, sit down and do your best to brace yourself until the worst has passed.”
While You’re in the Shower
If you’re lucky enough to be flying on a plane where showering in the sky is an option — like in Etihad’s Residence or Emirates First Class, for instance — listen up. “I would imagine that the best thing you could do is sit down in the corner, away from potential hazards for injury, such as the shower head,” said Trey.
While You’re Eating or Drinking
Nothing’s worse than accidentally spilling something on your lap — or worse, on the person next to you! — during a long flight, especially if whatever you spilled is hot.
“If you’re worried that hot beverages or food are going to become an issue, just put them on a floor,” said Trey. “A mess is much easier to deal with than a burn.”
So what happens if turbulence strikes during the meal service?
“Stop! Put it down. I promise you don’t need another bite of your admittedly mediocre airplane curry that badly!” said Trey. “And yes, I realize that sometimes during light turbulence we do continue the service. And please don’t ask for coffee. This is just going to burn you and/or me later if things get rough.”
While You’re in Your Seat
Taking simple precautions while you’re seated can make a big difference if things start to get bumpy.
“Seat belts. Seat belts. Seat belts!” said Trey. “It doesn’t matter how many times we tell you to keep them fastened, most people do not. They come unbuckled the second we’re off the ground, and often halfway down the runway on landing. That little belt, however, is the only thing preventing you from making an impression of your head in the panel above you.”
So even if you’re sitting, keeping your seat belt on sometimes can be the difference between getting hurt and not if things suddenly start to get shaky.
“Often times, half the injuries you hear about during turbulence happen to the crew, as it’s our job to be up and about in the cabin,” said Trey. “However, the other half usually happen to passengers who have neglected to wear their seat belts. Please, wear them.”
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