22 November 2000

Flight syndrome 'affects all'

By Andy McSmith, Chief Political Correspondent

Air passengers who travel first class are in just as much danger as those in the cheap seats from the condition misleadingly called "economy-class syndrome", according to the first official investigation into the problem, published today.

The House of Lords science and technology committee will call on airlines to issue a health warning to passengers on long haul flights about the danger of blood clots. They are expected to urge airlines to advise passengers who are taking long flights to stretch their legs frequently and to avoid taking too much alcohol.

About 100 passengers a year are admitted to accident and emergency departments around Heathrow, suffering from blood clots caused by the combination of cramped conditions and high altitudes on long flights.

About 142 patients a year die from deep vein thrombosis in the hospitals around Gatwick. Many of these are believed to be victims of long haul flights. The 400-page report will carry weight because most members of the committee are leading scientists or medical specialists who have been ennobled for their work in their particular fields, rather than retired politicians.

The link between long haul flights and blood clots has only recently been recognised, following the death of Emma Christoffersen, 28, who collapsed minutes after stepping off a 23-hour flight from Australia.