Turbulence is due to irregular atmospheric motion that results in the jolting of the aircraft. When turbulence is anticipated or suddenly encountered, the Captain will turn on the FASTEN SEATBELT sign. If turbulence is severe, the Captain will make an announcement “Flight Attendants please be seated”. Immediately discontinue service and return to your jumpseat or sit in the nearest available seat. If necessary, share a seat with a passenger.
Standard precautions that should be utilized to minimize the effects of turbulence:
- Plan where you will sit if turbulence intensifies and becomes a factor while in the aisles.
- Keep your galley organized and secured at all times.
- Stow all coffee pots and food items when not in use.
- Do frequent pick-ups in the cabin, eliminating service items and trash build-up.
- If you feel your personal safety is being compromised, sit down in your jumpseat, or if the situation warrants, in a passenger seat.
- Call the flight deck anytime you believe it is becoming moderately turbulent in the cabin and the seatbelt sign has not been illuminated. The aft portion of the aircraft may be experiencing a greater amount of turbulence, while in the forward section, turbulence is negligible.
- If light turbulence occurs during a beverage service, be cautious not to overfill beverages, especially if they are hot. The Purser may use her discretion to discontinue hot beverage service during turbulence.
The severity of turbulence encountered in flight dictates the appropriate Flight Attendant action to be taken. Below are aircraft, flight crew, and FA responses based on the four levels of turbulence.
What to expect during light turbulence, which is common to happen on every flight.
- Aircraft – Momentary, slightly erratic changes in attitude/altitude.
- Cabin/flight crew guideline – Passengers and crew may feel slight strain against the seatbelt. Unsecured objects should remain at rest. Little or no difficulty walking.
- Flight Attendant Reaction – Seatbelt sign is turned on. Perform cabin and galley inspections for loose articles and compliance checks of seatbelts. The service of food and beverage may continue. Use caution when serving hot beverages and food.
What to expect during moderate turbulence, which is less common than light turbulence, as pilots will do their best to avoid areas of known moderate turbulence.
- Aircraft – Changes in altitude/attitude and airspeed fluctuations occur but the aircraft remains in positive control.
- Cabin/ flight crew guideline – Unsecured objects may shift. Walking is not recommended unless absolutely necessary.
- Flight Attendant Reaction – Immediately perform seatbelt compliance checks, if able. If unable, make the fasten seatbelt announcement from your jumpseat. Secure all galley items. Strictly enforce seatbelt regulations. Flight attendants should return to their jumpseats and fasten their seatbelt and shoulder harness. Flight crewmembers may mane an announcement for “flight attendants, return to your jumpseat.” If you hear this, it is important you follow the flight crew’s instructions as they are aware of current or expected moderate turbulence. Personal safety is very important, so if this alert is made, return to your seat and strap yourself in without delay.
What to expect during severe turbulence.
- Aircraft – Large, abrupt changes in altitude/attitude will occur. The aircraft may be momentarily out of control.
- Cabin/ flight crew guideline – Occupants are forced violently against their seatbelts. Unsecured objects are tossed about. Walking is impossible.
- Flight Attendant Reaction – FAs should immediately sit and secure themselves in their jumpseat, or in a passenger seat if unable. If at your jumpseat, fasten your lap belt first, then shoulder harness, then make the fasten seatbelt announcement to passengers. Do not risk your personal safety to perform compliance checks. Passengers will be very aware they must secure themselves for their own personal safety before you make the fasten seatbelt announcement. This does not excuse you from making the required announcement. If all flight attendants are in the aisle when severe turbulence occurs, after securing yourself in a seat, shout to passengers “fasten your seatbelt now!”
What to expect during extreme turbulence. Flight crew will never fly directly fly into extreme turbulence. When one plane encounters extreme turbulence, they inform air traffic control to advise of when and where it occurred so other planes along that flight path can be rerouted around the area of danger.
- Aircraft – Tossed about violently, practically impossible to control. May cause structural damage.
- Cabin/ flight crew guideline – Occupants are forced violently against their seatbelt. Unsecured objects are tossed about. Walking is impossible.
- Flight Attendant Reaction – FA’s should immediately sit and secure themselves in the nearest available seat, or order a passenger to hold you if all nearby seats are occupied. Secure yourself and make an announcement to passengers. Do not attempt to perform seatbelt compliance checks. Remain seated until advised by PIC it is safe to get up again.
If the flight crew receives a warning of anticipated turbulent air, they will notify the Purser by interphone as to the expected duration and intensity of the turbulence. If there is minimal time to warn the cabin crew, the flight crew will illuminate the FASTEN SEATBELT sign and announce “flight attendants, return to your jumpseats.” If severe turbulence suddenly occurs, secure yourself in the nearest seat available, or have a passenger hold you.
Based on the severity of the turbulence, the cabin crew will act accordingly, as previously described under each level of severity. If no announcement comes from the PIC, the Purser will make the standard announcement, directing passengers to remain seated.
After an extended period of time in your jumpseat has elapsed and no further turbulence has been experienced, the Purser may call the flight crew and ask if it is safe to get up from their jumpseats. The Purser will communicate this information to the other Flight Attendants.