Perception of Passengers on Long Haul Flights Toward Deep Vein Thrombosis

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Sasithorn Nuammaneerat, Anusorn Phokankaew and Kittiya Vimolpim
College of Aviation Development and Training | Dhurakij Pundit University

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) report about the world of air transport in 2019, the total number of passengers carried on scheduled services rose to 4.5 billion, which is 3.6 percent higher than the previous year. This high demand for air travel passengers could lead the competition for the airlines.

To become the passengers’ favorite, airlines need to enhance service quality and safety standards such as improving in-flight entertainment, ergonomic design of passenger seats, food and beverage choice variety, and nonstop flight service for long-haul flights.

These services could make the passengers remain seated for a long period. Being immobile increases the chances that blood will pool deep inside the veins in passengers’ legs and potentially clot. It is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of a blood clot within a deep vein. The consequences may be immediate and life-threatening if emboli enter pulmonary circulation causing pulmonary embolus (PE).

DVT signs and symptoms included swelling and feeling pain on the affected leg. The pain often starts in the patients’ calf and can feel like cramping or soreness—red or discolored skin and feeling hot to touch on the affected area. Deep vein thrombosis can also occur without noticeable symptoms.

Long-haul flights or multiple flights in a short period can be associated with deep vein thrombosis. When the leg is bent at the knee for a long period without moving may affect blood flow and cause blood clots. Other factors can raise this risk, such as recent surgery, contraceptive pills, pregnancy, cancer, heart problems, and older age. Moreover, inherited genetic factors may also play a role.

Below are suggestions to reduce the risk of DVT.

  • Walk around during the flight as often as possible when it is safe to do
  • Refrain from crossing your legs
  • Refrain from wearing tight clothes that can affect blood flow
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol before and during the flight
  • Keep hydrated by drinking water
  • Stretch legs and move feet while sitting

There are also some exercises to keep blood flowing and reduce the risk of clots. The passengers may easily do it during the flight.

  • Stretch out your legs in front of you and flex your ankles. Pull up and spread toes, then push down and curl toes. Repeat all these steps 10 times. Remove shoes if necessary.
  • If you do not have enough room to extend your legs, you can just put your feet flat on the floor. Push down and curl toes while lifting heels from the floor. Then, with heels back on the floor, lift and spread toes. Repeat all these steps 10 times.
  • Exercise thigh muscles by sitting with feet flat on the floor. Start with sliding feet forward a few inches, then sliding them back. Repeat all these steps 10 times.
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