Higher Flying Lowers Comfort

On flights at 8,000 feet, passengers feel the pain; cabin pressure often too low
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2007 10:56 AM CDT
Passenger awaits flight.   (Index Open)
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(Newser) – Airline passengers routinely suffer from altitude sickness, and aircraft cabins are insufficiently pressurized to prevent it, a new study concludes. Altitudes of 8,000 feet above sea level result in 4% lower oxygen saturation in the blood, researchers found; cabins are often pressurized at the equivalent of 8,000 feet.

The result can be headaches, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty sleeping, especially on long-haul flights of 3 to 9 hours. Maintaining a cabin altitude of 6,000 feet or lower would reduce discomfort, the study concluded. But the higher level of pressurization would have a cost: decreased fuel efficiency, shorter lifespan of the airplane frame, and the necessity for more structural weight, scientists said.