While flying home on a charter plane following a holiday cruise, 11 guests from P&O Cruises’ Arvia were injured by unexpected turbulence, with some travelers requiring hospitalization to treat their injuries.

The plane diverted to Bermuda to ensure everyone could receive appropriate medical attention, but the diversion delayed travelers’ return to the UK in time for the Christmas holiday.

After finishing a delightful holiday cruise aboard Arvia, 225 cruise passengers boarded their chartered Maleth Aero flight late on Saturday, December 23, 2023 unaware that they’d be making an unexpected stop in Bermuda just after midnight on Christmas Eve.

Arvia had just finished a 7-night sailing from Antigua to Barbados, including stops in St. Kitts, Martinique, and St. Lucia. Passengers could also have opted for a longer, back-to-back itinerary that also included visits to the UK Virgin Islands, Dominicana, and St. Maarten before arriving in Barbados on Saturday, December 23.

Just after two hours into the flight from Barbados back to the UK – part of a vacation package included with the cruise fare – the plane encountered unexpected “clear air turbulence” at 38,000 feet that caused dramatic motion and injured 11 passengers.

The flight immediately diverted to Bermuda as the closest possible emergency destination in order to get the passengers to health care as quickly as possible. Emergency medical personnel were on hand to meet the incoming aircraft.

“At approximately 12:50 a.m., Maleth Aero Flight 1975 [Airbus A300-200], en route from Barbados to Manchester experienced severe turbulence, necessitating an emergency landing at LF Wade International Airport,” said a Bermuda government spokesperson.

“Emergency Medical Technicians from the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service [BFRS] greeted the aircraft to provide initial assessments of the passengers and pre-hospital care.”

Photo Credit: Daniele Speranza

Fortunately, all affected passengers were able to be discharged from the hospital on the same day, as all injuries were determined to be minor.

Arvia is offering a variety of Caribbean itineraries through the winter months, and will return to the UK in mid-March 2024 to offer European and Mediterranean sailings for the summer season, before returning to the Caribbean in November.

The 185,581-gross-ton Arvia is the newest ship in the P&O Cruises fleet, and can welcome 5,200 guests aboard for each sailing. Also onboard are 1,800 crew members to ensure every passenger has a phenomenal cruise.

The unexpected diversion has significantly delayed the cruise guests’ return to the UK, however. The original flight was to have landed in the UK on Christmas Eve.

Because of the holiday period and the need to thoroughly inspect the aircraft and ensure its safety and structural soundness, however, the flight did not resume until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, December 26, with a scheduled arrival of approximately 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, December 27. In the meantime, all guests were put up at hotels in Bermuda, with expenses paid by P&O Cruises.

Photo Courtesy: Ministry of Tourism Saint Lucia

“We are very sorry for this disruption to the journey following their holiday and we worked round the clock with the airline and hotels to take care of the guests and to ensure they get home as soon as possible,” said a spokesperson from P&O Cruises.

Guests were kept updated about travel arrangements through text messages and emails while the cruise line worked to finalize passengers’ return to the UK.

The type of turbulence that impacted the original flight was “clear air turbulence” (CAT) which is very challenging to predict, as it comes without any visual clues such as cloud formations or precipitation.

Clear air turbulence, sometimes called air pockets, can affect any flight, but is most common between 23,000 and 39,000 feet, particularly where jet stream flows are found. Mountain ranges and their occasional disruptions to air flow can also cause clear air turbulence, but this would have been the case over the Atlantic Ocean from Barbados to the UK.

Cruise Hive hopes the flight home for Arvia‘s guests is a smooth one, with a safe and uneventful arrival in the UK after their already turbulent travels.

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