Class struggle in mid air

the difference between business-class and economy-class tickets could be more than the money for some. The lack of leg-room in economy-class can lead to the development of blood clots in the legs known as deep-vein thrombosis ( dvt ) in middle-aged passengers, says Kevin Burnand, head of surgery at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, London. Prolonged pressure on the legs leads to the squeezing of veins and obstructs the free flow of blood. This is known to cause dvt in some people ( The Economist , Vol 343, No 8021).

Moreover, one of the common complaints in air travellers - dehydration - can make matters worse. The swelling that is observed in many passengers' ankles is a possible symptom of blood clots. These clots are generally harmless. But if they break off and travel from the legs to the heart, they can cause blockages in vital arteries and prove to be lethal.

This is not the only health related problem that is ascribed to economy-class seats. The angle of tilt in economy class seats is unfavourable for comfortable sleep, says Farrol Kahn of the Aviation Health Institute, Oxford. He suggests that passengers should wiggle their toes while sitting and walk around the aisle to keep the circulation of blood going. He also recommends middle-aged passengers to keep away from drinking too much on the flight.

No studies have been conducted that can establish the risk of flight-induced dvt , though airlines the world over claim that the risk is minimal. Burnand is drawing up plans for an extensive study to ascertain the problems associated with flight-induced dvt. He is looking for funds to conduct a study involving blood samples from 1,000 long distance passengers. Until he has some results, the risk factors of travelling economy-class would remain in the dark.

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