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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 04:32 GMT
Airlines face legal action over DVT
DVT is thought to affect people in cramped conditions
High Court writs are being issued against two major airlines over claims they failed to warn British passengers of the potential health risks from long-distance air-travel.

The test cases against Virgin Airlines and British Airways (BA) involve passengers who developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT) after long-haul flights.

They are likely to lead to "group litigation", or a class action, against many airlines, according to Watford-based Collins Solicitors, which acts for more than 150 alleged victims of the condition.

Airlines could face a compensation bill of more than 10m.

There is no conclusive evidence to link DVT with flying


Senior partner Des Collins said: "Untold numbers of people have seen their lives badly affected or very often ruined as a result of this problem.

"We have to resolve it as soon as possible."

In Australia, 2,700 passengers are seeking damages from airlines after suffering blood clots.

Collins Solicitors will issue writs on behalf of Lyn Walcott, from Benfleet, Essex, whose husband, Nigel, died in October 2000 following a BA flight from Barbados to London Gatwick, and Peter Wilson, of Harpenden, Hertfordshire, who developed DVT following a Virgin flight from Hong Kong to London Heathrow in October 1998.

Cramped conditions

DVT is believed to affect passengers who sit in cramped conditions for long hours without exercise.

Also known as "economy class syndrome", it can be fatal if blood clots that develop in a deep vein, often in the legs, break away and block the lungs.

According to the medical journal The Lancet, one in 10 of long-haul passengers is at risk from the condition.

Developing clots

But scientists are divided about whether there is a link between flying on commercial planes and developing clots.

A BA spokeswoman said: "There is no conclusive evidence to link DVT with flying."

But she added: "It is linked with long periods of immobility."

"We are committed to becoming involved in further research into DVT," the spokeswoman continued.

Cabin environment

"We are keen to learn whether there is anything about the cabin environment that may be a factor."

She said: "We would like to reassure the travelling public that BA takes the health and safety of its passengers extremely seriously."

The spokeswoman stressed that BA had provided passengers with travel health information for many years.

"That is in the form of an on board exercise video, exercises demonstrated in our in-flight magazine, a healthy journey information leaflet, and information on our website, with dedicated-to-health web pages, and over the phone," she concluded.

Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, welcomed the legal moves, saying: "Having recently undertaken long-haul flights with both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways myself, I am very well aware of the failure of all airlines to warn passengers about the dangers.

"DVT is just one of the potential hazards, and while airlines are charging such high premiums to travel more comfortably, they give no clear guidance to those who have to suffer the risks of economy class travel."

The BBC's Paul Anstiss
"Scientists are divided as to whether there is a link"
See also:

05 Sep 01 | Europe
Euro MPs put pressure on airlines
08 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Economy class' deaths probe
05 Aug 01 | Wales
MP steps up DVT campaign
11 May 01 | C-D
Deep vein thrombosis
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