Air travellers 'need 34-inch legroom'

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The Independent Online

Air passengers should have at least 34 inches (86cm) of legroom on long-haul flights, a judge said yesterday after a businessman won compensation for sitting in a "straitjacket" seat on a holiday jet.

JMC, one of Britain's largest tour operators, was told by Judge Gareth Edwards QC that its treatment of passengers by forcing them to sit in a space of 29 inches (73cm) during an eight-hour flight was "intolerable".

The remarks were made as the judge upheld a compensation award made to Brian Horan, a company director, for his journey with JMC from Manchester to the Canadian ski resort of Calgary last year.

Sitting at Chester County Court, Judge Edwards said of the conditions endured by Mr Horan: "In my own view, it was not merely uncomfortable, it was intolerable. It might perhaps have been endurable for a two-hour flight but an eight-hour flight is a totally different matter."

Mr Horan, 57, of Macclesfield, Cheshire, had tests for deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) after complaining of pain his legs when he returned from Canada on a JMC Boeing 767 in April last year.

Campaigners have long argued that DVT is caused by cramped economy class conditions in aircraft cabins, although experts say victims are as likely to suffer the condition in "roomier" seats.

A claim by Mr Horan for pain caused by his DVT scare was dismissed at an earlier hearing but the court was told yesterday that customers had a right to expect a minimum level of comfort.

Judge Edwards said seat "pitch" – the distance between back rest of a seat and the back of the seat in front of it – should be at least 34 inches.

Mr Horan, who likened his conditions to a "veal crate", said: "We have got to stop the corporate sector driving us into conditions which they claim we want." The businessman, who was awarded £500 plus costs of £3,160, said he had been unable to read or look at newspapers during the flight and that eat or drinking was "extraordinarily difficult".

JMC said it would be seeking leave to appeal against the ruling.

¿ The Tories have called for urgent research into links between the "third-generation" Pill and DVT after government figures showed a steady rise in the number cases.