A recent spate of turbulence incidents on commercial flights, including a tragic fatality on a Singapore Airlines flight, has thrust the issue of air travel safety back into the spotlight. These incidents, coupled with ongoing concerns about Boeing aircraft, have many passengers feeling uneasy.

But perhaps the biggest concern looming on the horizon is the potential link between climate change and increased turbulence. Real Research, an online survey app, recently conducted a survey to gauge public perception of this potential correlation and its impact on travelers’ behavior.

Key Findings:

  • Climate change and increased turbulence – 74% believe there’s increased turbulence due to climate change.
  • The recent incidents have led some travelers (21%) to avoid airlines involved in past scares.
  • Over 60% of people admitted to feeling anxious about turbulence during flights.

Is it just me or is flying getting bumpier?

Turbulence, defined by the U.S. National Weather Service as abrupt, irregular movements of air causing unexpected updrafts and downdrafts, has recently gained attention for unfortunate reasons. In a series of events, both a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore and a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin experienced severe aircraft turbulence, resulting in injuries and tragic loss of life.

Real Research asked respondents if they were aware of these incidents. The majority, 65.1%, were aware of the Singapore Airlines incident, while 21.04% knew about the Qatar Airways incident. Furthermore, over half (57.4%) have personally experienced turbulence during a flight.

Many researchers believe climate change and increased turbulence are closely linked. For instance, UK scientists found a significant increase in severe turbulence, particularly over the North Atlantic. They link this rise to changes in high-altitude wind speeds caused by warmer air from carbon emissions.

Figure 1: Does climate change increase the likelihood of turbulence?

This study supports the belief held by many (74.44%) that climate change increases the likelihood of turbulence.

Can planes and pilots handle the bumps?

Even though pilots get detailed weather reports to avoid rough patches, there’s one particularly sneaky culprit: clear air turbulence (CAT). This unpredictable type of turbulence can catch pilots by surprise, leaving little room for course correction.

Despite this, the majority (55%) expressed confidence in a pilot’s ability to handle turbulence. The rest (44.66%) remained somewhat or not confident.

Figure 2: Respondents’ confidence in the aircraft’s ability to withstand severe turbulence.

Thankfully, modern aircraft are built tough. Aviation experts assure us that severe turbulence is unlikely to bring a plane down. However, the survey showed a clear split in confidence in the aircraft’s ability to weather the storm. While over a fifth (21%) were very confident, more than a quarter (26%) remained unsure.

What do flyers think?

Turbulence might be scary, but fatalities and injuries are thankfully rare, according to aviation safety experts. That being said, the survey found that over 60% admitted to feeling anxious about turbulence during flights.

The takeaway? Passengers are aware of the climate change and increased turbulence connection, and it’s impacting their perception of air travel.

Figure 3: Bumpy flights are causing some travelers to switch things up.

While 35% said these events wouldn’t change their booking habits, some flyers are taking action. Over 21% are avoiding airlines associated with these incidents, while others are choosing alternative routes (16%) or even opting for different modes of transportation entirely (14%).


Survey TitleSurvey on Climate Change Linked to Increasing Air Turbulence
DurationMay 30 – June 8, 2024
Number of Participants5,000
DemographicsMales and females, aged 21 to 99
Participating Countries Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, China (Hong Kong) China (Macao), China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Greanada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Maldives, Maluritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar [Burma], Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.