Travel: Health risks add to fear of flying

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The Independent Online
Heart attacks and other medical emergencies are killing more air passengers than plane crashes, figures from the United States Federal Aviation Administration suggest.

There were 14,000 medical emergencies each year on the nine major US airlines which carry 65 per cent of all passengers flown by American carriers. Applied across all airlines in the US, this was equivalent to 15 emergencies a day, compared to two or three during the last study in 1986-1988. Overall, an estimated 350 passengers a year died on US airliners, compared with an average 118 passengers a year who died in air crashes on US soil since 1978.

The findings are reported in New Scientist magazine, which says: "While no one knows why the in-flight death rate has soared since 1988, there are a number of theories. Most of the deaths occur on long-haul flights, and the number of passengers taking these has doubled in the past decade. Additionally, more elderly people are now flying. Some doctors speculate that the exertion of carrying heavy baggage before a flight, plus the excitement of holiday travel, may increase the risk of heart failure."