After deadly Singapore flight turbulence, Dubai residents recall harrowing travel incidents

One person died and at least 20 others were severely injured in the Singapore Airlines incident


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Fri 24 May 2024, 7:54 AM

Last updated: Fri 24 May 2024, 2:15 PM

For Dubai resident Noora Salim, one of the most unforgettable flights of her life was when she flew from Saudi Arabia to her hometown in the southern Indian state of Kerala in the late 1990s. "I was about 10 or 12 and on a late-night flight. The cabin crew were serving food," she recalled. "While I was in the bathroom, the flight hit turbulence and I started to get thrown about."

She managed to get out of the toilet but cabin crew and their food tray were in the aisle, preventing her from returning to her seat. “I held on to a seat for dear life,” she said. “There were a lot of Arabs on the flight. Many of them started praying loudly. Some of them started reciting the Quran. The cabin crew managed to roll the food tray away and I stumbled into my seat. The turbulence lasted at least 45 minutes.”

The 35-year-old, who has been a resident of Dubai for two years, shared her story with Khaleej Times just days after a Singapore Airlines flight was caught in turbulence, killing one person and severely injuring at least 20 others, who were admitted to the ICU.

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“When I read of the incident, I remembered my own experience,” she said. “That day, the food trays were strewn all over the place, the doors of all the overhead cabins flew open and I remember thinking I was going to die. I can only imagine the sheer terror of the passengers on board.”

Fear of flying

For Hajara Sharaf, one such incident of turbulence instilled in her a lifetime fear of flying, as she travelled alone at the age of 16. “In 2013, my family and I had flown to India for my grandfather’s funeral,” she said. "I decided to come back to Dubai early due to my exams. It was the first solo flight of my life.”

The youngster befriended the lady who was sitting in her adjacent seat and was chatting with her when the weather became precarious. “In the middle of the journey, there was a sudden drop and the seat belt signs came up. That is when the pilot announced the bad weather,” she said. “I panicked as I had never encountered such an experience in my short life. I started praying."

Hajara Sharaf
Hajara Sharaf

The passenger next to her began calming her down until the plane hit turbulence again. “The lady started screaming, ‘Oh God, please help us’ — and my panic mode kicked in again,” she said. The incident plunged her into a lifetime fear of flying.

“Eleven years after the incident, my fear of flights still persists each time I travel,” added the 27-year-old expat.

Hajara now tries her best to stay calm during flights. “I read articles and listen to peaceful recitations,” she said. “I cannot eat anything on the flight. I try to sleep from the moment I am buckled up, but I can never sleep well as even the slightest movement will wake me up. I also always remain buckled in.”

The Hong Kong ride

Indian expat Shehna Mansoor, travelled to Hong Kong with her family to visit Disneyland in 2015. “I had spent the entire trip in and around Disneyland as my three children went on one ride after another,” she said. “They even dragged me on some of them. I hate sudden jerks and fast rides. So when the holiday came to end, I was relieved.”

However, the biggest ride of her life was awaiting her on the plane. “About halfway through the flight, we experienced turbulence,” she said. “Sometimes, the plane would drop and, at other times, it would climb. It made my stomach turn. My kids were treating it like a roller coaster and clapping and cheering. That was the most annoying thing for me.”

Shehna Mansoor
Shehna Mansoor

The turbulence lasted for more than two hours. “I got the sickness bag out because I was sure I would throw up,” she said. “However, thankfully, I was fine. It is a plane ride that I never want to think of again.”


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