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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Airline legroom rise backed
airline seats
The UK has minimum standards for the gaps between seats
A major report into aircraft seat safety recommends that passengers should be given more space.

It also calls for future seat designs to include measures to protect passengers against deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

The report - part-funded by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) - looked more at changes in the average weight and height of passengers in the past few decades than the highly-publicised fears over so-called "traveller's thrombosis".

It said that an increase of two inches in the minimum gap between backrests was needed for people to escape easily in the event of an emergency.

It also called for a minimum standard for the legroom given to passengers, and for seat cushions to be widened.

The CAA will be pressing for an early decision on an implementation of the recommendations

Robin Ablett, CAA head of research
However, the report said that in theory, redesign of aircraft seats could reduce the risks of DVT - and that any new seat designs should be tested to see how they affected crucial blood flow in the lower legs.

Any increase in legroom would be likely to please medical experts as it could allow people to move more freely within the seat, and reduce the chance of dangerous blood clots forming.

An expert on blood clotting disorders including DVT, Dr Paul Giangrande, from Churchill Hospital, Oxford, told BBC News Online: "It's an excellent idea to have a minimum standard for legroom.

"Airlines say that they want to minimise the amount that people move around outside their seats during a flight because of the risks to them from turbulence, so anything which allows leg exercises while seated is to be encouraged."

The report also suggested that specially-designed footrests could help prevent the clots.

Study call

The authors called for a separate, more comprehensive study of deep vein thrombosis and air travel.

However, the huge costs to the airline industry of even a subtle increase in seat spacing will certainly mean no swift changes for consumers.

ultrasound test for clots
Blood clots can form in the lower legs
Currently, the UK is the only country which specifies the minimum spacing between seats on aircraft.

This is currently 26ins between the seat backs of each row.

Robin Ablett, the head of research for the Civil Aviation Authority, said: "The CAA will be pressing for an early decision on an implementation of the recommendations.

"This is a comprehensive piece of research that we hope will bring benefits to travellers on most of Europe's airlines."

DVT fears

Fears over DVT and airline travel emerged after research revealed that many more people were falling prey to the condition during air travel than previously thought.

Anything which allows leg exercises while seated is to be encouraged

Dr Paul Giangrande, Churchill Hospital, Oxford
One report in the Lancet medical journal suggested that one in ten passengers were at risk of some kind of clot, although in many cases these did not cause ill health.

In fact, anyone sitting motionless for long periods, whether on an aircraft or in a car, places themselves at some risk of bloot clots.

More at risk are the elderly, the obese, or those with underlying health problems.

The government is reported to be considering ordering airlines to issue health warnings to passengers embarking on long-haul travel, particularly those in high risk groups.

See also:

05 Aug 01 | UK
Airlines 'to warn of DVT'
30 Jul 01 | Wales
Airlines face DVT action
11 May 01 | C-D
Deep vein thrombosis
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