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Dozens Injured in Hawaiian Airlines Severe Turbulence Incident


On December 18, 2022, 36 people sustained injuries when Hawaiian Airlines Flight HA35 experienced severe turbulence while traveling from Phoenix, Arizona to Honolulu, Hawaii. The Hawaiian Airlines flight landed safely at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu at approximately 10:50 a.m. local time. The flight manifest showed that 278 passengers and 10 crew members were aboard Hawaiian Airlines Flight HA3.

Emergency responders transported 17 passengers and three flight attendants to area hospitals for treatment. Eleven were listed in serious condition, including a 14-month-old child. The reported injuries included serious head injuries, loss of consciousness, cuts, bruises, and nausea.

The Hawaiian Airlines flight experienced severe turbulence roughly 30 minutes before the plane landed at the airport. Passenger Jazmin Bitanga, who was flying home for the holidays, said the plane experienced two significant drops in altitude. Her mother, who had just sat down and had not yet buckled her seat belt, “flew up and hit the ceiling.” The drop in altitude was so strong her boyfriend’s water bottle hit the ceiling with such force that it left a crack.

“I turned around and there was a couple of people bleeding and just bracing themselves,” Bitanga told the media. “Just all around me there were people crying.”

An official for Hawaiian Airlines told the media that the “fasten seatbelt” sign was illuminated at the time of the turbulence, which occurred at 36,000 feet as the plane was beginning to make its descent into Honolulu. “Sometimes, these air pockets occur with no warning,” the Hawaiian Airlines official said. “It’s rare to have that level of extreme turbulence. It was a very extreme case of mid-air turbulence.”

Cause of Turbulence on Flight to Hawaii

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), atmospheric pressure, thunderstorms, jet streams, air around mountains, or weather fronts can cause turbulence. The Hawaiian Islands regularly experience these and other weather systems capable of causing turbulence.

National Weather Service meteorologist Thomas Vaughan, who is based in Honolulu, told the media that at the time of the severe turbulence, there was a weather advisory for thunderstorms that included Oahu and areas in the HA35 flight path. Aviation accident attorney Timothy A. Loranger says Hawaiian Airlines should clarify for the passengers aboard HA35 why the plane was allowed to fly into a known weather situation.

“It’s been reported that thunderstorms and a powerful cold front were active in the state and were in HA35’s intended flight path,” Loranger says. “Hawaiian Airlines was certainly aware of this and should have taken steps to avoid this type of hazardous weather. So why did they allow this plane to fly directly into weather capable of causing severe turbulence? The people harmed in this incident deserve answers.”

The FAA estimates that each year, 58 people sustain in-flight injuries due to turbulence while not wearing a seat belt. In non-fatal aviation accidents, in-flight turbulence is the leading cause of injury to airline flight attendants and passengers.

Aviation Accident Lawyers with Experience in Turbulence Injury Cases

The aviation accident lawyers at Wisner Baum have successfully represented clients in turbulence injury lawsuits. Below is a selection of cases where we earned justice and compensation for clients harmed in in-flight emergencies.

  • JetBlue Flight 2276 (2020) – Engine Explosion
  • American Airlines Flight 2905 (2019) – In-flight Injury
  • JetBlue Flight 1416 (2014) – In-flight Emergency
  • US Airways Flight 797 (2011) – In-flight Incident
  • Southwest Airlines Flight 812 (2011) – In-flight Fuselage Rupture
  • US Airways Flight 583 (2011) – In-flight Incident
  • United Airlines Flight 967 (2010) – In-flight Turbulence
  • United Airlines Flight 1028 (2008) – In-flight Turbulence

Since 1985, we have won more than half a billion for aviation accident clients. Our firm has successfully litigated cases against nearly all the major airlines in the United States. Simply put, we know what it takes to go up against big companies and win.

Some of our top verdicts and settlements in commercial airline cases include:

  • $17.5 million settlement – US plane crash
  • $14 million settlement – US plane crash
  • $10 million settlement – International plane crash

If you would like to speak with an experienced aviation accident lawyer about your case, fill out our contact form or give us a call at (855) 948-5098. We offer free and confidential case evaluations.


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