Select Committee on Science and Technology Fifth Report


Summaries of individual submissions

Introductory note

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 statistically representative.


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 points.

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 reclined.

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 flight.

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 real conditions.

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 recommended.

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 economy class.

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 his health.

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 extra price.

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 the flight.

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 syndrome".

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 displayed in-flight.

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 corporate defensiveness.

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 air.

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 flights.

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 be met.

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.

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