'DO airlines discriminate against older people?' asks Gladys Glascoe of North Thamesmead. She was returning from Copenhagen to London with British Airways and requested her favourite seat near the emergency exit 'where there is plenty of leg room'.

'Having obtained such a seat without difficulty on the outward flight, and enjoyed the company of another elderly lady and the kindly attention of cabin staff, I anticipated no problem, more especially as I was checking in three hours before take-off.'

However, Mrs Glascoe was told that seats near the emergency exit were 'blocked off'. 'I assumed prior bookings. On boarding I queried this with the stewardess and was told that I was denied such a seat because I was 'wheelchair'.

'This is not so and when I pointed it out I was told that 'women of a certain age' were not given those seats because 'you would not be able to use the emergency equipment if asked'. I disputed this. The reply was: 'It's Civil Aviation Authority rules.' '

Mrs Glascoe admits she had heard a rumour that, in order to save more people in an emergency, cabin staff are instructed to give precedence to the younger and more agile. She didn't believe it, but the rumour enhanced her preference for a seat near the emergency exit.

If the odds against her are to be deliberately lengthened by distancing her from the exit, says Mrs Glascoe, shouldn't the airlines say there is an enhanced risk for the elderly and lower the fare accordingly?

Since being an airline means never having to say you are sorry, one doubts whether Mrs Glascoe will get very far with her complaint. However, it would be interesting to hear if other elderly travellers have been similarly treated.

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