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Air NZ passenger describes getting burnt on turbulent Queenstown flight

Jun 17, 2024

A passenger who was burnt after a full coffee pot was poured onto her when turbulence hit says there was nothing she could do because she was "strapped in".

A crew member and passenger Suze, who only wants to use her first name, received moderate injuries after flight NZ607 from Wellington to Queenstown on Sunday afternoon.

Suze said they'd been told to expect some bumps, which was pretty typical for a flight into Queenstown.

They were about 15 minutes into the flight when the plane jolted during tea service, causing cabin crew to hit the deck.

"Just a small jolt and then a massive jolt. I've flown a lot and it was really rough."

The trolley was jostling around in the aisle and the coffee pot lids came off, pouring hot coffee onto her.

She tried to shield herself with her arm, suffering more burns to her abdomen and back.

"There's nothing you can do. You're strapped in, you want to stay strapped in, there could be more turbulence and then you've got to deal with the level of burns you've just received," she said.

"I was able to get hold of a bottle of cold water and start dousing myself and I was able to speak to the hostess who was still lying on the floor and said 'is it alright if I get water everywhere cos that's what I'm going to be doing?' and she said 'go for it'.

Suze told Checkpoint the turbulence carried on for a while and she was stuck in her seat.

"There was no wanting to unbelt your belt and also the trolley was still in the way, you couldn't go anywhere.

"It was actually pandemonium."

Suze said fortunately for her, a paramedic was sitting in the row behind and helped her for the rest of the flight.

She wanted Air New Zealand to reconsider serving hot drinks on short flights and improve the lids on their coffee pots.

"It seemed to come loose pretty quickly and I think on long haul flights you see the coffee pots or hot water pots are all quite closed in," she said.

"I mean the fact that the plunger lid came off pretty quickly and a large amount of hot liquid can escape, that is something that can be rectified pretty quickly."

She was fortunate that her burns were not too severe, she said.

Air New Zealand reached out to her this afternoon.

Another passenger on the flight told Crux that a crew member said the intense turbulence was the worst she had experienced in her career.

They said another crew member told them they hit the ceiling.

Air New Zealand said crew were trained to respond to such situations, and their procedures detail when passengers and crew are required to take their seats during different levels of turbulence.

Chief operational integrity and safety officer Captain David Morgan said clear-air turbulence could happen when rough air was not visible to flight crew.

He said they were always reviewing procedures to ensure customers and the crew's safety were prioritised.

Queenstown Airport said an ambulance was requested and on standby.

Hato Hone St John said it was called to Queenstown Airport just before 3pm and took two patients to Lakes District Hospital in a moderate condition.

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