Watch Lightning Strike from Inside the Cabin While Passengers Endure 15 Minutes of Turbulence

As Hong Kong headed into the weekend the weather was terrible and air travel turned to chaos. Reader Alex messaged while trapped on board Cathay Dragon flight CX781 from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. They had circled Hong Kong, made two attempts to land, and diverted to Shenzhen once low on fuel.

Since the plane’s load of passengers had already cleared outbound immigration, authorities wouldn’t let everyone into the terminal. They landed in Shenzhen about five hours after departing Guangzhou, and sat on the tarmac in Shenzhen for hours. The aircraft ran out of water, and the scheduled 90 minute flight didn’t have food on board. Alex described “babies passed there limit hours ago, bathrooms are a lost cause, and everyone’s starving.”

Hong Kong had 9000 lightning strikes in less than a day, and their first ‘red rainstorm’ warning of the season. Two people died.

Saturday afternoon Cathay Pacific flight CX360 from Hong Kong to Shanghai took off just in advance of the worst of the region’s storms.

Lightning was filmed from inside the cabin striking one of the aircraft’s wings. It also damaged the plane’s nose. Reportedly the plane “was rattled by turbulence for a solid 15 minutes” flying through the storm.

As ‘striking’ as this is, it’s worth remembering just how safe from lightning strikes airplanes generally are. While on average it’s said that every commercial plane is struck by lightning at least once a year, I believe it’s been over 40 years since a crash has been attributed to a lightning strike. The fuselage of a plane will conduct electricity and allow it to trasmit from the strike and generally out the tail.

Here a China Southern Boeing 737-800 being struck by lightning at Jieyang Chaoshan International Airport in China three years ago — minutes after passengers had disembarked the aircraft.

And here’s some pretty incredible video from late 2016 of an Airbus A330-300 flying through a lightning storm enroute from Iceland to Paris.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I have been on a Cathay flight to Bali in May 2015, that was struck by lightening. Nobody seemed even a bit upset.

  2. I had just left CX 806 HKG-ORD at 11:15, It was bumpy but not like that! My wife had landed at 4am from IAD. She texted me photos mid day from the Grand Hyatt that looked pretty bad.

    My flight attendant said the airport was closed do to rain but that storm was only a yellow alert.
    Looks like I split the two storms.

  3. I had just left CX 806 HKG-ORD at 11:15, It was bumpy but not like that! My wife had landed at 4am from IAD. She texted me photos mid day from the Grand Hyatt that looked pretty bad.

    My flight attendant said the airport was closed do to rain but that storm was only a yellow alert.
    Looks like I split the two storms.

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