Long distance flying seems to be becoming more stressful these days as a direct fall out of enhanced threat perception and resultant prolonged hours of complicated security checks at airports across the world, believe a section of aviation experts.
Three hours of buffer reporting time for security reasons before the scheduled departure of the aircraft apart from one hour drive to the airport seems to have turned the joy of flying into nightmare for many international passengers, especially senior citizens who are more susceptible to deep vain thrombosis and heart attacks.
Apart from the additional hours, delayed take offs and landings, the anxiety caused by any possible terrorist attack on board has also added to the already stressed levels causing immediate illness either on board the aircraft or soon after disembarking.
The death of four international passengers within a span of 19 days in November 2006 reported at the Mumbai airport seems to be corroborating the stress theory. Out of the four, while two passengers died on board, the other two died soon after disembarking and all of these deaths are possibly due to cardiac failure.
Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) president Sudhakar Reddy said, "The anxiety levels of passengers have increased and when you fly an American airline, the terrorist threat is much more. The unbelievable security procedures also add to the fear of passengers, which in turn gives rise to more stress. As such long haul flights are stressful and the new phenomenon has added to the problem."
He said the recent deaths of international passengers though is a matter of great concern, it has to be handled with great maturity. "You can not blame an airline, neither you can blame the airport authority for the sudden deaths. All of them have standard procedures to handle such emergencies and asking for a doctor on board each aircraft is too much and impractical. Passengers with medical history should rather consult their doctors before taking a long flight. One should take precautions rather than loosing life," he said.
Airlines said that they could not do any thing for the security checks as this is the need of the hour. Rather they educate the passengers how to effectively handle long haul flights by taking frequent walks inside the flight and drinking more water.
Air India spokesman S Venkat said, "All our cabin crew are trained how to attend to emergencies. We have also tied up a hospital in Bangalore to get instant medical advice to attend to serious cases. We also show a 10 minutes film to all our passengers advising them what to do in long haul flights. It has all details on how to prevent Deep Vain Thrombosis, a frequent phenomenon seen among long stance passengers. Our in-flight managing Namaskar also has details on how to overcome problems during the flight."
Delta Air Lines passenger George Neumann who died was a frequent flyer and he knew how to handle the fatigue in the flight and despite this he died without accessing medical aid. He was travelling business class, which offers more comforts than the economy class and despite this he died. Since he was already at the airport after completing the non-stop flight whose responsibility was he? There was neither a clear answer from the airline nor the airport operators. But Neumann is not alive to fix responsibility. It is high time that the entire aviation industry should devise a strategy to handle such problems rather than indulging in blaming game.