Airline massage workers sue Virgin Atlantic over RSI claims

Two women who worked as airline masseuses are suing Virgin Atlantic for more than £500,000 - because they developed repetitive strain injury (RSI) after giving massages to overweight executives.

Beauty therapists Jayne Evans, 40, and Michelle Hindmarch, 35, both developed the condition, which causes chronic pain in the shoulders, upper back and wrists - after giving intensive shiatsu massages at the airline's Terminal 3 'Clubhouse' Lounge at Heathrow.

The women are 'devastated' at being forced to abandon their careers as a result of their injuries, said their barrister, Theodore Huckle, at the High Court.

The pains mean the women can no longer carry out simple household tasks, such as peeling carrots or putting on a pair of jeans, the court heard.

Mrs Evans, who still works for Virgin Atlantic in an administrative capacity, is claiming £327,000 compensation for exposing her to the risk of injury, while Mrs Hindmarch is asking for £235,000 in damages.

While Virgin Atlantic does not dispute liability for the two women's injuries, it is contesting the amount of compensation due to them and the extent of their injuries.

Their symptoms, the court was told, were caused by working overlong shifts, and by using shiatsu pressure-point techniques with heavy pressure.

Most of their customers were men who required heavier hand and finger pressure 'involving particular strain on the thumbs', says a report in the Daily Telegraph.

Mrs Evans 'became distressed and was sent home' after a particularly strenuous session in October 2005 in which a 'large male client' asked her to massage even harder than usual.

At one point, an attempt was made to restrict the number of massages to two per hour when therapists complained of their symptoms but the measure was short-lived.

Mrs Hindmarch claimed that there were insufficient breaks between long therapy sessions, and that the main 'determinant' of work pressure was flight scheduling.

Mrs Evans told the court that the loss of her career had affected her emotionally and dented her confidence.

Judge Martin McKenna has reserved his ruling in the case and will give his decision at a later date.

In October 2005 Elizabeth King, a former beauty therapist who also worked at the Virgin Atlantic's Heathrow Clubhouse lounge, was awarded £100,000 after developing RSI.

The firm has also paid £26,000 in an out-of-court settlement to another injured beauty therapist, Emily Rimmer.

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic Airways, which is owned by Sir Richard Branson (pictured) said: 'VAA is aware of the current cases proceeding at Court. The health and safety of our staff is always our top priority. We will continue to assist the court on this matter and remain confident that the final determination will be satisfactory to all parties involved'.

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