‘Economy Class Syndrome’ Cited in 25 Deaths

From Reuters

Japan’s first survey of “economy class syndrome” found Thursday that 25 passengers have died of the condition at Tokyo’s Narita airport in the last eight years, a figure likely to put pressure on airlines to tackle the issue.

According to the study by a clinic at Narita airport, 100 to 150 passengers arriving in Tokyo on long-distance flights are treated each year for the problem, believed to be caused by immobility and cramped seating on long flights.

Of the passengers treated for the condition each year, 50 to 60 cases were regarded as serious, said Dr. Toshiro Makino, head of the New Tokyo International Airport Clinic.

The long hours in cramped conditions are believed to cause deep-vein thrombosis, or formation of blood clots, and it can be fatal if the clots circulate into the heart or the lungs.


The syndrome hit the headlines in October after a 28-year-old British bride-to-be collapsed and died at the end of a 20-hour flight home from Australia, where she had watched the Sydney Olympic Games.

Her death prompted a British parliamentary committee to issue a report urging airlines to warn passengers of the risks of developing the potentially fatal blood clots.

Although researchers differ on whether long flights increase the risks of blood clots forming, Makino said passengers, whether in economy or first-class, should take precautionary measures such as drinking water to prevent dehydration--one cause of blood clots.

Makino said the 25 deaths reported since 1992 were not limited to economy-class passengers. One was a U.S. airline pilot who collapsed in the cockpit after arriving in Tokyo.


Many of those who suffered serious cases were overweight passengers and the elderly, he said. The average age of those who died was 64, but one was just 46.

Japan Airlines, Japan’s largest carrier, said it had posted on its Web site precautionary steps passengers should take, such as stretching their legs and drinking plenty of water. But it has no plans to increase the leg room of its seats.