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Walkabout: Death by Economy
There's a new danger in the sky. It's called media hype

October 27, 2000
Web posted at 4:20 p.m. Hong Kong time, 4:20 a.m. EDT

Ticked off at Asia Buzz? Turned on? Talk back to TIME
This week the media the world over carried stories about Deep Vein Thrombosis. It isn't the first time the media has covered the issue -- I've written several articles myself -- but it was approached as if it was a new danger in the skies, possibly lurking under every seat.

The real reason it was covered so vehemently was that most journalists have to fly economy -- and they hate it. Because economy class sucks. So the death of 28-year-old Briton Emma Christoffersen from Deep Vein Thrombosis minutes after a 20-hour Qantas flight from Australia, was a convenient peg to hang all this pent-up frustration on. Experts were trotted out to say that sitting in a confined space was not only annoying, but also possibly deadly. Stuffy airline corporate types were put on TV face-to-face with "serious" journalists and asked tough questions:

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The story behind today's news from the editors of Asiaweek

Q: So, Mr Airline, do you fly economy?

Q: Why not, are you afraid of Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Uh, no.

Q: (leaning towards Mr Airline) So you're not afraid of this killer in the skies?
Yes. No. I don't know.

And for the first time in my life, I found myself sympathizing with the airlines. All this talk about Economy Class Syndrome has given me Stockholm Syndrome. Millions of people fly millions of miles every year and suffer no more than indigestion and boredom. Yes, it's sad that people die of this. Yes, sitting in cramped conditions brings it on, but traveling has always had risks.

While it's good to educate people about possible risks, it's also important to not get carried away. There's no need to break out the buzzwords. Your chance of getting 'Y Class Syndrome,' developing a 'Long Haul Clot' and having a headline in your honor reading "Death by Economy" is quite low. But because the media is so pervasive, grannies in Uzbekistan -- who have never earned a frequent flyer mile in their life -- are vowing off economy class.

Air France, with that Gallic sense of irony, conducts video-led in-flight yoga classes featuring a gorgeous woman going through the "Airlineseatsutra." Slightly cruel to show this woman stretched out on the bow of a boat somewhere in Mauritius to 300 people sitting in "cattle class," but it is effective in making them think about doing something other than economy.

My advice is just do what every story on surviving economy class suggests: drink lots of water, get up and move around at least once an hour, and stretch in your seat as much as humanly possible.

Now, I've just saved you from reading about three hours of features in the Sunday paper. You can thank me later.

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