An Air Canada flight travelling from Toronto to Sydney, Australia, with a scheduled stop in Vancouver, encountered sudden and severe turbulence Thursday, leaving at least 35 passengers with minor injuries, the airline said.
The number of passengers on the plane totalled 269.
Forced to turn around, the pilots made an emergency landing in Honolulu early this morning, paramedics tended to the almost three dozen injured passengers.
"Our first priority is always the safety of our flights, passengers and crew and as a precaution, medical personnel are on standby to examine passengers in Honolulu", Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said. Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Shayne Enright said injuries included cuts, bumps, bruises, neck pain and back pain.
Luke Wheeldon told the Honolulu news station KTIV about half the passengers had not been wearing seatbelts. "A couple of the air hostesses were bringing food out at the time, and they hit the roof as well".
A man who was on board the flight told reporters in Honolulu "a girl" in front of him shot through the plastic ceiling. "And I went, 'Oh, this is a bad day'".
The turbulence happened at 36,000 feet (10,973 metres), about 1,000km south-west of Honolulu, the US Federal Aviation Administration said.
In another case, 29 people were injured after a Turkish Airlines flight encountered severe turbulence on its approach to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in March.
The airline is now working with passengers to rebook flights and make accommodation and meal arrangements.