Summaries of individual submissions
As noted in paragraph 2.12 of this Report, confirmation
of the public interest in the topic under Inquiry came from the
many letters we received from individuals about their particular
experiences. These submissions are summarised below and, as noted
in Appendix 3 (which gives details of how the full texts may be
inspected), not printed in Volume II.
While this material lent colour and immediacy to
the Inquiry, we emphasise that, as a self-selected sample from
among those with complaints of one sort or another, it is not
1. Ms Atherton had a very cramped Air 2000 flight
from Scotland to Cyprus in March 2000, made worse by the amount
of hand luggage in the cabin and the reclining of the seat in
front. She would happily pay for better conditions.
2. As a frequent business traveller for many
years, Mr Baker has felt considerable discomfort at the air conditioning
changes in newer aircraft. Older aircraft were cooler, and also
allowed some personal control of the air nozzle over one's head.
Following any sleep without a blanket, he used to wake up cold:
in modern aircraft, he wakes up perspiring. Such conditions make
people more irritable and may facilitate the transmission of infection.
3. Mr Barnes has suffered discomfort and stress
from being seated adjacent to a very overweight passenger on a
long air journey. He wonders whether airlines should be given
the right to ask for a weight declaration when booking seats.
4. Mr Beeton is 6 feet 4 inches tall. However,
as a 75 year-old War Disabled Pensioner, he is not allowed to
sit in seats with extra leg room which are situated by the emergency
exits. He has therefore to travel in very cramped conditions.
He feels that more should be done to accommodate people with his
problems, and would be ready to pay an increased charge.
5. Mrs Bennett notes that newer aircraft seem
to provide less space for normal sized people, particularly when
seat backs are reclined, and that short-haul aircraft seem to
provide greater comfort than those for long-haul. She finds that
a cool and well-ventilated plane leaves her fresher and less jet-lagged
than warmer and "stuffy" planes. She is surprised that
airlines do not ask about passengers' fitness to fly.
6. Mr Berry took a round the world trip in early
2000. He spent a large part of one long-haul flight with British
Airways standing or walking in the cabin not only to avoid the
discomfort of the cramped and poorly ventilated seat but also
to relieve severe discomfort in his upper thigh (which turned
out not to be the DVT he feared). He complained to the airline
and did not feel their brief apology took proper account of his
7. Mrs Bingham has travelled annually to the
USA for 20 years, for the last four years with Iceland Air. There
are normally no problems but, in May 1999, she woke feeling unwell
about four hours into the flight. She asked the flight attendant
to turn on the air conditioning above her head but no air came
out. She recovered completely on arriving at Reykjavik when the
doors opened and a flood of fresh air came in.
8. Having endured a very uncomfortable 1993 flight
on which smoking was permitted, Mrs Bish is delighted at the introduction
of the general smoking ban. Nevertheless, she still finds there
to be insufficient fresh air in aircraft cabins. She also finds
seat space insufficient, particularly when seats in front are
9. Mr Bogni has been flying for nearly 40 years.
Up to 1973, he recalls flying as almost a pleasure. The reduction
of air quality since then (which worsened in later years) means
that this is no longer the case.
10. Dr Bown suffered a life-threatening DVT shortly
after a Monarch flight to Geneva. Although the flight was short,
it followed a three hour delay during which the passengers were
held seated on the aircraft. As the senior physician at Frimley
Park Hospital, he is aware that looking after patients with such
blood clots represents a large problem and workload. Dr Bown considers
that much more should be done to encourage passenger exercise
and mobility, but his experience of long-haul flight suggests
that airlines actively discourage this.
11. Mr and Mrs Bowness consider the air quality
and seating space on most charter flights to be abysmal. They
would be prepared to pay more for better conditions.
12. Mr Bryce is over 6 feet 2 inches tall, with
long legs. He found the seat on an Air 2000 flight from Manchester
to Mallorca impossible to sit in and spent the flight on a rather
uncomfortable jump seat. He found that larger seats were reserved
for taller people with medical certification or for those, regardless
of size, who paid a premium.
13. A few days after a return flight to Jakarta
in December 1998, Mr Burns experienced a sharp pain in his right
calf. Being aware of the thrombosis problem on long-haul flights,
he went to his GP. As there was no sign of bruising or bleeding,
the pain was diagnosed as muscle strain. Mr Burns flew twice more
to Jakarta, in mid January and early February 1999. (Except for
Bristol-Amsterdam transfers, all flights were business class.)
The January trip produced no medical problems. During the February
trip, he experienced some chest pains and breathing difficulties
which he put down to pollution in Jakarta. On his return, he went
again to his GP and was sent directly to hospital where pulmonary
embolism was diagnosed. He continues to travel but with appropriate
exercise and prophylaxis. Mr Burns notes that, while several in-flight
magazines have articles on exercises for long-haul flights, he
has never seen information from airlines about possible medical
hazards or which offer advice on post-flight symptoms.
14. Mr Caplan has long experience of aviation
insurance issues. He notes that no part of the Chicago Convention
requires the 185 member States to have regard to the health and
comfort of air passengers. He is certain that safety regulators
do not wish to become involved in such matters.
15. Miss Coath flew from Australia to the United
Kingdom in January 1998. Although very fit from her two months
in South Australia, she developed a flu-like virus two days after
her return which she is certain she picked up on the flight. The
consequent chest infection took 3½ months to clear. She notes
that a passenger joining the flight at Bangkok was forced to disembark
when he would not remove the surgical mask he was wearing. An
announcement was made that, according to medical advice, it was
not necessary to wear a mask.
16. Mrs Cole suffered a bout of pleurisy following
a flight from Malta to the United Kingdom in May 1999 which she
puts down to inadequate filtration of the cabin air. In reply
to her complaint, Air Malta said it was difficult to attribute
such illness to a particular source and confirmed that their filters
were maintained in strict accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations
as approved by the Malta Civil Aviation Authority. On travelling
to and from Israel with Monarch Airlines in April 2000, Mrs Cole
took the additional precaution of wearing a surgical face mask.
Her husband did not and, shortly after returning home, developed
a chest infection requiring treatment with antibiotics. Mrs Cole
argues that airlines should improve the quality of cabin air.
17. Miss Crouch considers air quality on board
aircraft to be a disgrace and feels this causes much cross- infection.
Also, she would like to see a readier supply of drinking water
for passengers to combat dehydration.
18. Mrs Davies and her husband flew from Singapore
to Heathrow in June 1999. This was part of a longer trip booked
with Qantas but, because of the airlines' links, was on a British
Airways plane. The economy class seats were so close together
that their knees touched the seats in front, and they could not
reach to pick up things from the floor. They found this most uncomfortable
and were glad when the flight ended.
19. Mrs Dawson flew from Kuala Lumpur to Heathrow
by British Airways in November 1998. Halfway through the flight,
she stood up and experienced a sharp pain in the back of her thigh.
Thinking it was cramp, she walked around a little. She returned
to her seat and slept for a while. On waking, she found her calf
was swollen. The cabin staff dismissed the suggestion that this
might be a thrombosis and declined to seek further medical advice.
In great pain, Mrs Dawson spent the rest of the flight lying across
three seats. After disembarkation, Mrs Dawson went to Ealing Hospital
where her life-threatening DVT was diagnosed and treated (as reported
in the European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery,
Vol 19, 2000). British Airways rejected Mrs Dawson's allegation
that cabin staff had been negligent or inept. Mrs Dawson feels
that a safety message of taking exercise and moving the legs and
feet should be given at the start of the flight.
20. Mrs Deacon flew to Spain in February 2000
and stayed in the same hotel as most of the other passengers on
the flight. Within three or four days, five people had gone down
with flu and others with other infections. The time interval for
incubation strongly suggested a link to the flight and poor filtration
of circulated cabin air. In these days of advanced technology,
she feels there should be better air quality.
21. Shortly after returning from holiday in Egypt
in January 2000, Miss Doran went down with a nasty infection which
required antibiotic treatment. She had never had such a severe
cough or felt so ill. As the infection set in about two days after
her return, she feels she must have picked it up on the Egyptair
22. Mr Downing finds seat space inadequate. It
is made worse by the permitted under-seat storage of hand luggage
that cannot be accommodated in overhead lockers. He doubts whether
emergency evacuation could be achieved sufficiently quickly in
23. Mr Driver says that, on every Boeing 777
flight he has made to Tampa with British Airways, someone has
fainted for no apparent reason other than the poor quality of
the air. This is compounded by very cramped seating in economy
class making it very difficult for passengers to move about as
24. A few days after flying with British Airways
to Newark in June 1999, Mrs Ellis developed a bad cough that turned
into acute bronchitis requiring emergency medical treatment. Since
she was previously fit, doctors concluded that she had picked
up a virus in the flight. The infection left her with asthma which
severely disrupted her life and work. She concludes that better
air quality should be secured by applying, in the air, the public
health and safety legislation that protects the public on land.
25. Dr Gibbons is 5 feet 8 inches tall and has
found it increasingly difficult to be comfortable in economy class
seating. He is also concerned about the disruption and annoyance
for others in getting to and from non-aisle seats. He would welcome
the opportunity to pay more for more comfortable conditions in
26. Dr Green is a non-smoker who has high blood
pressure which is treated by drugs. Two days after flying home
from Lanzarote with Monarch in February 1999, he went down with
broncho-pneumonia. Two days after travelling with Monarch from
Malaga to Gatwick in April 2000, he suffered an attack of bronchitis.
27. In the spring of 2000, Mrs Guy flew to Zurich
with British Airways and with EasyJet. Shortly after each flight
she developed a nasty respiratory tract infection which lasted
about three weeks. She is normally fairly fit, and did not have
any colds or flu the previous winter.
28. Mr Haddon is concerned about cabin air quality
and would like to see clear standards laid down for quality and
frequency of air change.
29. In 1993, Mr Hadley and his wife flew from
Singapore to Heathrow with Qantas, a long flight which was part
of a busy period of touring and nearly 48 hours without sleep.
Having been a previously fit 58 year old, Mr Hadley recovered
from the exhaustion to find himself suffering from circulatory
problems, which persist. Although it cannot be proved that the
flight was responsible, Mr Hadley sees it as the likely cause.
30. Mr Harper, aged 75, suffers chest congestion
after long-haul flights which takes 3-4 weeks to clear. He suspects
the recirculation of stale air to be a large part of the problem.
If so, it must cost a lot in terms of loss of health and medical
care. He also finds similar problems on long coach journeys.
31. Mr and Mrs Hayter have stopped flying long-haul
because, on every recent flight, Mr Hayter has caught a chest
infection. The most recent occasion was a trip to Barbados in
February 1998 when, as usual, they were travelling club class.
Mr Hayter was in bed for most of the two and a half week holiday.
In their hotel alone, five people (four of whom had travelled
club class) from the flight had got bad chest infections. Mrs
Hayter wrote to British Airways complaining about the spread of
infection but received no answer.
32. In June 2000, Mr and Mrs Hirsh flew to Cyprus
on a JMC charter flight and found the 40 rows of seats to provide
wholly inadequate room. Although they are only slightly taller
than average, movement in the seats proved almost impossible and
they doubt whether evacuation could have been achieved in an emergency.
Because of the overcrowding, the air conditioning could not cope,
and Mrs Hirsh briefly fainted gasping for air. Both of them contracted
throat infections which, in Mrs Hirsh's case, developed into bronchitis.
33. In early 2000, Mrs Hobson and her daughter
flew to Delhi and back with British Airways. Although 5 feet 8
inches tall and slim, she found the economy class seating cramped
and narrow. For the majority of passengers who have to occupy
non-aisle seats, there were negligible opportunities to move as
recommended for circulatory reasons, particularly when seat backs
were reclined. There was much more room on internal Indian flights.
34. Captain Holderness notes that air quality
and space per passenger have been reduced in recent years, with
some British Airways Boeing 777s being converted to ultra high
density seating. All this adds to passenger stress.
35. Mr Holloway is a fairly frequent flyer. Over
the winter 1999/2000, he has had two serious bouts of flu and
three chest/throat infections. Following discussion with his doctor,
he is confident that he is catching these infections as a result
of flying. He feels that airlines are not using the recommended
filters properly or maintaining them adequately, and wonders how
widespread the problem actually is.
36. Mrs Holroyd suffers from severe and chronic
lung disease. Because of the dangers of infection from inadequate
air conditioning, she has been advised by her doctors not to fly
which means that she cannot visit her family abroad. She would
welcome improvements in air quality that would change this position,
and would be willing to pay a little more for better conditions.
37. Mr Hughes is a frequent flyer and hardly
takes a flight without catching a cold or some other virus. He
would like to see improvements to avoid this constant drain on
38. Mr Hull is a regular air traveller and is
tired of developing a cold a few days after flying. He puts this
down to poor air quality and would like to see clear standards
imposed for this as well as for seating and on-board medical equipment.
He also questions whether the proximity of the toilets to galleys
is a health hazard.
39. Mr Hyde considers the leg room in long-haul
economy class seating to be unacceptable, particularly when compounded
by the claustrophobia of sitting in one of the two central seats
in the typical 2 4 2 configuration and the fact that the flight
may be only about half the total travelling time.
40. Mr Ingham has been a frequent flyer for many
years and considers economy class seating to be inadequate in
terms of both leg room and seat width. He recently paid £250
extra for a premium class ticket on a Monarch flight to Cuba,
and found the extra comfort well worth the added expense.
41. Mr Johnston suffers badly from motion sickness
which, set against other health risks from flying, may seem minor.
However, the severe effects for sufferers mean that effective
alleviation merits much more attention than it currently receives.
42. Miss Jones has suffered two brain haemorrhages
following non-stop flights from Santiago to Heathrow in 1996 and
1998 and no longer travels by air. The first flight left Santiago
over four hours late but arrived slightly ahead of schedule. She
puts her experiences down to aircraft having to fly too high and
too fast in order to meet deadlines.
43. In February 1996, Mr Joynson suffered a DVT
after flying back from a holiday in Portugal. The very cramped
seating was compounded by a bulkhead which prevented any recline.
As a result of the thrombosis, he is now a long-term liability
for the National Health Service. On another flight, Mr Joynson
had suffered a perforated eardrum through not knowing how to equalise
the rapid pressure change. Mrs Joynson is susceptible to bronchitis
and has often suffered from post-flight infections. They have
now stopped taking holidays that involve air travel. If proper
care were taken of passengers' health, they would gladly pay the
44. Mr Kell draws attention to the fact that
a flight is only part of the travel experience. Delays and frustrations
at check-in contribute to general stress. After a difficult charter
flight from Malaga to Gatwick in 1999 (compounded by very cramped
seating in which he doubts the evacuation requirements could have
been met), he was disappointed to find that the airline appeared
unconcerned and unwilling to take notice of constructive criticism.
45. Mrs Layte flew to Damascus in September 1999
in a full and relatively small British Airways plane. She was
concerned that there were only two toilets. There was a constant
queue for these facilities thus further crowding those sitting
nearby. Furthermore, it was only two steps from these well-used
toilets to the galley, with hygiene implications.
46. In February 1997, Mrs Lewis and her family
flew with Thomson Holidays and Britannia from Birmingham to Turin
for a skiing holiday. Over the next couple of days, they all succumbed
to sickness and diarrhoea, accompanied by high temperature, thirst,
blurred vision, kidney pains and fatigue. About 50 from the same
flight were also affected. The outbreak was investigated by the
Communicable Diseases Surveillance Centre (CDSC) of the Public
Health Laboratory Service which found that it was due to "small
round structured virus" from an already infected passenger.
Britannia said this was a "hazard of travel". A year
later, Mrs Lewis discovered that there had been an outbreak of
the illness on the same plane the day before her journey. In that
case, the aircraft had sat for three hours on the tarmac at Manchester
without the air conditioning working before flying to Lyon and
105 passengers and crew were infected. After the second incident,
the aircraft had been taken out of service, stripped and cleaned.
Mrs Lewis felt that the CDSC's report raised a number of important
general questions but has found Britannia unwilling to engage
with these. She sees the airline as more interested in establishing
that it was not responsible than discovering the true causes.
47. Mr Lowe is concerned that not enough is known
about the combined effects of reduced pressure and caffeine, alcohol
and smoking - particularly as this may affect flight crews' alertness.
48. Mr MacDonald was a WWII bomber pilot and
is now a fairly frequent air traveller. On a number of recent
long-haul flights he has fainted. He first put this down to claustrophobia
from the cramped conditions in economy class, but now considers
it to be from lack of oxygen. He would gladly pay a little more
for a roomier seat and better air.
49. Mr McKenzie Buchanan has been a frequent
long-haul air traveller for many years. Like many medically qualified
people, he is aware of the DVT risk from prolonged sitting in
the aircraft cabin (and elsewhere) and believes the use of soluble
aspirin as a prophylactic and the need for leg movement should
be more widely publicised. Over the last ten years, Mr McKenzie
Buchanan has become increasingly aware of the incidence of upper
respiratory infections among older passengers. Two years ago,
he suffered a very severe chest infection himself within a week
of flying and has no doubt that poorly filtered and inadequately
re-circulated air is to blame. Over many years of clinical practice
in the surgery of malignancy, he has noted that some of his cancer
patients, thought to be tumour-free, have been referred back shortly
after a flight suffering from a malignant recurrence. He does
not suspect any unusual radiation but that, as many people are
more terrified of air travel than they admit even to themselves,
this could be sufficient to trigger off an immune response failure.
50. As an MEP, Mrs McNally is an experienced
traveller. On three occasions she has felt ill on a Virgin Express
flight - most recently on a trip from Brussels to Heathrow in
July 2000 when she felt very faint. She thought it was very stuffy
in her row at the back and that air at the front was fresher.
The airline investigated her complaint and, although it found
no fault in the aircraft or the way it had been operated, expressed
concern at her perception of conditions.
51. Mr Marland's 21 year old daughter felt excruciating
pain in her chest shortly after flying to New York. The Roosevelt
hospital prescribed anti-inflammatory painkillers and sent her
back to the hotel. Her condition worsened during the night and
she was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital where specialists also
failed to make a clear diagnosis. Familiar with aviation health
issues from his work in insurance, Mr Marland asked the hospital
to check for DVT but the suggestion was dismissed on the grounds
that his daughter was too young and that, in any case, DVT was
not caused by air travel. Mr Marland is concerned that lack of
publicity means that even medical staff at a leading hospital
are unaware of the issues. (His daughter received proper treatment
on her return to the United Kingdom.) Airlines (and their insurers)
are aware of the risks, but do not like passengers moving around
to stretch their legs. Indeed, they manipulate the air conditioning
after the main meal to induce a soporific state - known in the
trade as "giving the punters the cosh".
52. Mrs Martin has arthritis of the spine and
gets a lot of pain if she sits for more than three hours. In each
of the last eight years she has flown to Miami and back, and buys
three economy class seats together so that she can lie down for
53. Mrs McDermott and her husband flew from East
Midlands Airport to both Cyprus and Malta on package holidays.
On both occasions, Mr McDermott was ill with a chest infection
for most of the time away. As he was not prone to chest problems,
they put these illnesses down to poor air quality in the aircraft.
More recently, they travelled to Australia. They chose to fly
with Qantas because of the advertised extra leg room, but ended
up flying with British Airways following an amalgamation of flights.
They were unable to secure seats with extra leg room. Although
exercising during the flight and during the hour's stop at Bangkok,
Mrs McDermott had five days of swollen ankles and feet after arriving
in Sydney - not something she had suffered after two previous
flights there. She also suffered a prolapsed interverterbral disc.
Her Australian doctor and physiotherapist said that many other
visitors needed treatment for similar conditions after cramped
sitting conditions on the long flight to Australia. Mrs McDermott
had to return to the United Kingdom earlier than planned, and
her insurance company paid for business class seats.
54. Miss Meara developed flu-type symptoms and
a cough shortly after flying to Stansted with World Wide Airlines
from Lourdes in June 1999. This was later diagnosed as pneumonia.
Miss Meara is an occupational health nurse and believes her illness
was caused by poor maintenance of air filters and low air quality
on the aircraft.
55. Mrs Mills flew from New Zealand to the United
Kingdom via Singapore on 26 March 2000. She became ill with severe
chest pains on 8 April and was admitted to hospital on 10 April
for treatment with intravenous warfarin and an oxygen mask. The
medical staff referred to her pulmonary embolism as the "economy-class
56. Dr Morgan Williams has had an interest in
the effects of cramped seating in aircraft since he flew to South
Africa in 1984. He suggests that, to help determine whether cramped
seating tends to produce DVT, doctors and coroners should be under
a statutory duty to report all such conditions for further investigation.
57. Mrs Muncey twice developed very nasty colds
following flights to California. At the time she put that down
to chance, but has since found that many friends have also suffered
post-flight coughs and colds. Mrs Muncey and her husband both
developed sore throats and coughs which lasted for weeks following
a flight back from Greece in June 2000.
58. Mrs Newman has been flying abroad for 37
years. Over the last five years, two days after flying (both out
and home), she has been taken ill with a dreadful cold. For the
past five flights, she has used an antiseptic throat spray which
appears to prevent this, but she remains concerned about catching
more serious infections.
59. Mr Nightingale had a return British Airways
flight between Gatwick and Tampa in November 1998. With the seat
in front fully reclined, it was not possible to turn the pages
of a magazine without leaning into the aisle. Even with both seats
upright, it would not have been possible to assume the emergency
landing position. He is 6 feet tall and of normal build.
60. As a retired airline captain and an occasional
air traveller, Mr Paddon is concerned at the reduction in aircraft
ventilation rates and feels that health and safety considerations
are becoming secondary to cost issues.
61. Employees of Mr Phillips' group (Wesumat
UK) are significant users of medium and long distance air travel.
He has general concerns about variations in air quality between
different airlines. In particular, he feels all airlines should
deliver the best quality of air to all cabin occupants regardless
of class of travel, with arrangements to minimise any transfer
of infection between increasingly diverse passengers. He suggests
that air quality should be continuously monitored and the results
62. In February 2000, Mrs Pink flew from with
British Airways from Chicago to London in a Boeing 777, sitting
in the rearmost economy seats. On disembarking, she felt giddy
and disoriented. She put this down to jet-lag, but the symptoms
continued. Mrs Pink has experienced nothing else like this in
her 54 years, and is convinced that that she was subjected to
conditions on the plane which have had lasting effects.
63. Dr Plumb returned from a two week holiday
in the Maldives in August 1998. At 6 feet 3 inches tall, he found
the seating on the charter aircraft very cramped. Nevertheless,
he slept for a few hours sitting upright during the non-stop flight
to Heathrow. A day after return, his left calf was swollen. Being
a doctor, he knew he had a DVT but, as he considered himself fit
for his then age of 53, he chose to conclude that no real damage
was done. Some weeks later, he suffered a pulmonary embolism and
was very ill. Although now recovered, he has reservations about
undertaking another long-haul flight and is convinced that restricted
seating is a major risk factor for DVT.
64. Mr and Mrs Reed flew with Britannia to and
from Majorca for a holiday in May 2000. On both flights they sat
in window and adjoining seats in row 17 of a Boeing 767-300 and
suffered from very cold air from the ventilation which gave Mrs
Reed a cold, complicated by her asthma. Cabin crew were unable
to alter the temperature and said there were complaints about
this on every flight. Mr Reed does not believe that his complaints
to Britannia or Boeing received adequate attention.
65. Mrs Richardson is asthmatic and needs continuous
additional oxygen at cruising altitudes. She always makes arrangements
(supported by the necessary medical documentation) in good time
for the extra oxygen to be supplied, and is happy to pay a reasonable
amount for the extra service. Some airlines treat this as if no
more than a request for a vegetarian meal. Others make much more
difficulty, in some cases relying on their exemption under the
Disability Discrimination Act and declining to carry her because
of the attention required. Pre-ordered oxygen, although confirmed
at check-in, is not always actually on board. Cabin crew have
said that it is for them to decide when oxygen will be supplied.
Some airlines allow the central reserve supply to be used. Most
supply separate tanks - sometimes such small ones that the frequency
of changing them is a chore for all. Mrs Richardson would like
to see standardised better practice.
66. Mrs Ridout, a frequent flyer to Australia
using a number of airlines, finds the lack of fresh air and cramped
seating the two most worrying aspects of air travel. Although
a normally healthy person, she invariably picks up a (sometimes
quite severe) chest infection which she attributes to "bad
air" in the cabin. She would be ready to pay more for both
fresher air and extra seat room.
67. Professor Riley suffered a pulmonary embolism
during a flight from Madrid to Heathrow. (Although the flight
was short, he had also flown from Edinburgh to Barcelona and from
there to Madrid the same week.) The symptoms persisted on a flight
to Edinburgh three hours later. Neither he nor his wife recognised
the cause and they telephoned for medical assistance when they
got home. He was diagnosed and treated in the Royal Infirmary,
Edinburgh. He had no previous history of cardiac problems and,
although in his mid-seventies, had exceptionally good blood pressure.
He cannot dissociate his experience from travel by plane and hopes
that airlines might be required by law to increase cabin pressure,
improve air quality and allow more space for passenger seating.
68. Mr Sackett caught pneumonia/emphysema on
a charter flight to Corsica in July 1999. After a two hour wait
on the tarmac at Heathrow and a two hour flight, he arrived at
Sunday lunchtime. By Monday evening, he had developed a fever.
He was in intensive care in Ajaccio for two weeks, flown home
by air ambulance, and had a further 3½ weeks in Wycombe Hospital.
In May 2000, aged 69, he was still under treatment for consequent
heart and other problems. Whilst not provable, the medical view
was that he was infected aboard the aircraft. Insurance and other
cover was quickly forthcoming, although repeated letters were
necessary to secure full refunding in line with policy statements.
Mr Sackett's informal contacts suggest that post-flight illness
is more common than might be thought. His conclusion from initial
dealings with those in authority in the airline business was that,
like the tobacco industry, they behaved with polite but impenetrable
69. In April 1998, Mrs Simpson flew back to the
United Kingdom from the USA with British Airways. On landing,
the pressure in the cabin was incorrectly adjusted and, together
with a number of others, she experienced excruciating pain. Two
weeks later she was diagnosed as suffering a substantial loss
of hearing in both ears which, with treatment, took nearly two
years to return to normal levels.
70. Mr Smith flies several times a year. For
many years, he has suffered from flu-like symptoms within two
or three days of a flight and now plans for this. He has recently
been diagnosed as a diabetic which makes him prone to virus infections.
There must be others like him and he feels a study should be carried
out. Mr Smith also records an air steward's confidence that the
air conditioning is turned down overnight on long-haul flights
to quieten the passengers. He has noted himself that, when returning
from the Caribbean with British Airways, the temperature rises
when passengers are expected to sleep.
71. Mr Sparks has noted a deterioration in cabin
air quality over the years, with a distinct "lack of freshness"
leading to a variety of low-level adverse effects and, on occasion,
flu-like symptoms. He contrasts this with his experience of military
aircraft and of civilian cockpits where the air seems cool and
fresh. Mr Sparks would also like to see better standards for seating
and for in-cabin noise.
72. Miss Stringer finds economy class seat widths
too narrow. Controls in armrests can be both uncomfortable and
unusable. She notes the advice to get up and walk about during
flights to maintain good circulation, but finds this impracticable
with the gangways so frequently blocked with trolleys. She suggests
that seating configurations should provide "passing points".
73. Within four days of flying back from a two
week holiday in Gran Canaria in November 1999, Mr and Mrs Taylor
both developed minor colds. Within three days of flying back from
a week in Spain on 6 April 2000, they both went down with bad
head and chest colds. On both occasions they had been previously
fit and healthy. From these and friends' experiences, they are
convinced that cabin air quality is to blame. On the most recent
flight, Mr Taylor noted that air vent controls did not match the
seating configuration suggesting that extra seats had been put
in. They would be prepared to pay a little extra for clean cabin
74. Mr Toms was a healthy 76 year old when he
flew to New Zealand in January 1999 in British Airways/Qantas
economy class. Shortly after arriving, he became unwell with a
chest infection. He cut short his holiday and, on returning home,
was diagnosed as suffering from pneumonia and tuberculosis. He
is certain that he picked up the infection on the flight.
75. On a very crowded British Airways flight
from Tampa to Gatwick in 1998, Mrs Trench reports that many people
felt unwell and that her husband fainted. She puts this down to
poor air quality compounded by very cramped seating. She would
like to see minimum standards laid down for seat pitch and air
quality and for the latter to be monitored in flight. Mrs Trench
also suggests that information about air quality and space standards
should be published alongside fare information so that passengers
can make informed choices.
76. Miss W (name withheld on request) has a history
of stroke associated with cerebro-vascular arterial abnormalities
and also a thrombotic condition. She works in mainland Europe
and has to travel widely. The medical assessment is that she may
travel by air provided that she does not have to stand for prolonged
periods, has extra leg room when sitting and avoids stressful
situations. Her experience of various airlines (particularly Britannia,
British Airways, and Swissair) is that special assistance and
provision arranged at booking is normally not delivered at check-in
and in-flight. No redress or sympathy is offered for these shortcomings.
The airlines seem to want her to take her custom elsewhere. In
relation to a non-work flight, British Airways complained to her
employers about her persistent complaints. Miss W would like to
see airlines made generally more accountable for delivering arranged
services, perhaps with an ombudsman to arbitrate. The law should
be amended to bring airlines within the Disability Discrimination
Act and to allow damages for distress and inconvenience where
the contract is for carriage only.
77. Mr and Mrs D R Walker would be ready to pay
a 10% premium for better air quality and seating. They had a nightmare
journey from Singapore to Manchester with British Airways when
their legroom was restricted by the reclining seats in front.
Mr Walker suffered deafness as a result of pressure changes on
landing on a flight to Miami in December 1997. Mrs Walker has
suffered the only two bad throats of her life after two winter
78. In January 1998, Mrs M Walker flew to the
United Kingdom from Hong Kong (a stop over from Australia/New
Zealand). Three or four days after this her right calf was still
sore and she went to the local hospital. The duty sister examined
it and said it was all right, but that she should go to her GP
is it got any worse. Three weeks later, while driving, Mrs Walker
experienced severe chest pains and went to hospital. She feels
that her awareness of the risks of flight-related DVT from the
press helped prevent a possible misdiagnosis. Mrs Walker has since
discovered that she has thrombophilia, a form of "sticky
blood" more prone to clot. She notes that, although this
condition affects 7% of the population, few seem to have heard
about it - let alone whether they have the condition, and what
preventative measures to take if they have.
79. Mr Wall finds seating on charter flights
to be too cramped and feels that standards have not kept pace
with changes in the travelling public's average size and age,
to the point where the evacuation requirements are unlikely to
80. On the last two occasions he flew, Mr White
has had a chest infection which he puts down to poor air quality.
(Being above average weight and height, he also found the seat
spacing inadequate.) The infections caused him particular problems
as a sufferer from asbestosis with reduced lung capacity, and
he no longer travels by air. Indeed, he keeps as far away as possible
from other places where groups of people meet or travel together
in enclosed air-conditioned places.
81. Mrs Whittaker and her above average height
family invariably find aircraft seating too cramped. They are
aware of potential thrombosis problems and exercise regularly
during long-haul flights but would be glad of more room for this,
and suggest that there should be a suitable exercise leaflet.