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Wednesday, 22 November, 2000, 21:00 GMT
Passengers heed flight health warnings
Passengers
Passengers say they try to move around during long flights
By BBC News Online's Jatinder Sidhu at Heathrow Airport

The latest fears over the health risks of long-distance travel do not seem to have unduly worried the throngs of tired passengers arriving at London's Heathrow airport.

But many told BBC News Online of their concern over sitting still for long periods during their flights.

And some were aware of the risk to long-haul passengers of develeping deep vein thrombosis (DVT) - when clots form in deep blood vessels, often in the legs - a potentially fatal condition.

Laine Blanchard and Nancy Nottingham, from New York, said they found the airline did take passengers' comfort seriously, but were concerned about the confined spaces in economy class.

Tahany Suleiman, Mariam and Waleed El Assar
Medical family: The El Assars didn't need to be told of risks
"The cabins are extremely tight," Ms Blanchard said. "There was a gentleman - a very large man, literally stuffed into the smallest space. I felt so sorry for him. They finally accommodated him in a bulkhead area."

Ms Nottingham said "coughing in tight corners" did worry her: "I don't dwell on that a whole lot because I need to get from A to B."

She said passengers should be better informed of health risks: "At least then we have the option to fly or not to fly. Or to say something," she added.

Des Cockrane from Bournemouth, returning from Bangkok via Dubai, was concerned after hearing about a recent tragedy which raised awareness of DVT.

Emma Christoffersen, 28, collapsed and died from DVT minutes after stepping off a 20-hour flight from Australia.


Some said they did not think they would suffer DVT
"That's probably a one-off," Mr Cockrane said. "I fly regularly and have never had any problems, so I'm not too concerned."

Aware of recommendations urging passengers to drink plenty of water and not too much alcohol, he said the airlines had an obligation to offer advice to long-haul travellers.

"They just leave you to it. It wouldn't take much time to do it - whilst they do the safety thing. You're sat there, a captive audience," he said.

Dubi Geffen, an Israeli who had travelled to London from South Africa said he was not afraid of DVT and did not think the airlines should be obliged to warn passengers of potential risks.

"If you look at how many people are travelling, I'm sure it's one in a million," he said.

'It was horrible'

Waleed El Assar, a medical student, and his mother Tahany Suleiman, a retired nurse, from Dunedin, New Zealand, didn't need to be told. They knew exactly what the risks were.

"It's the blood clotting thing isn't it? If you stay seated for a long time you might have a blood clot and maybe a heart attack," Mr El Assar said.

"It was horrible. I got up for three minutes in the last eight hours. There was bad weather so most of the time they told us to sit down and keep our seat belts on," his mother added.

"It was very tiring. I wanted to walk around the aeroplane but they refused to let me. I tried hard with them. I told them at the end I am a sick woman and at my age the problem is worse," she said.

Another issue is the "economy class syndrome" - where reduced leg-room in the cheaper seats is said to place travellers at increased risk.

Neil Wisby, who was returning to Swansea after a holiday in Australia, said he was upgraded to business class for free due to delays.

'Twiddling our toes'

"It was much more comfortable than economy," he said.

He said it was possible to get up and stretch in business class, but that it would be too cramped to do the same in economy.

Pamela White, from Bognor Regis, West Sussex, was returning from a holiday in India.

She said she didn't feel squashed at all in economy class, and that airline staff encouraged passengers to move around during the 11-hour flight.

"We're all wary of our legs. I think most of us have been twiddling our toes, shuffling our legs and getting up for a walk around," she added.

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See also:

18 Nov 00 | Health
Study backs blood clot fears
10 Nov 00 | Health
More evidence of flying risk
23 Oct 00 | C-D
Deep vein thrombosis
23 Oct 00 | UK
The seats of discontent
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