Taking Flight

An overnight flight in economy class has long been the bane of travellers.Crying babies, snoring neighbours, bad food, cramped seats — it’s the cost of flying on  the cheap. Most are minor nuisances that we grin and bear. But, when it comes to legroom — or lack of it – things can get unbearable.

A recent Toronto Star article claims that sitting immobile for long periods in a cramped airline seat can trigger blood circulation problems. Known informally as “economy class syndrome”, poor blood flow can cause swollen legs, blocked arteries and, in rare cases, pulmonary embolism and stroke. The syndrome can hit anyone but particularly affects the overweight, elderly and those who have recently undergone surgery.

The obvious culprit is the economy class seat — there’s just not enough room to stretch your legs. In many airlines, economy seats get only half as much legroom as those in business class. Add in the dry, recycled, air we’re forced to breathe and you create a less-than-ideal environment for blood to flow.


Experts suggest the following may help get your blood circulating: don’t cross your legs, wear loose clhing, prop up your feet if possible, drink lots of water and stand up and walk about frequently.

Try to check in as early as possible and ask the agent for the best possible seat. Make sure the seat they assign is fully reclining. And, if there’s a row empty seats, ask the in-flight staff if you can move into them. If all this fails, try pleading for an upgrade to business class.