Aviation insurers are bracing themselves for a flood of claims related to cramped conditions on long haul flights.

In a landmark ruling, a tourist was awarded damages after fearing he had contracted the potentially fatal disorder deep vein thrombosis (DVT), also known as economy class syndrome, after sitting in an airline seat that was too small.

Cheshire businessman Brian Horan won £500 compensation from tour operator JMC over fears that he had developed DVT, although he was not actually suffering from it.

Now there are fears that the case could spark a raft of claims nationwide.

Head of aerospace at law firm Barlow, Lyde and Gilbert, Nicholas Hughes, said: "DVT is a high profile issue and publicity given to a successful claim might encourage people to make similar claims, with the possibility that small claims courts all over the land may have to deal with them.

"But it is also possible that this case could be overturned on appeal."

A leading aviation lawyer said: "This case could set a precedent. If this man was awarded damages just for suffering an uncomfortable flight, the possibilities for lawsuits against tour operators and airlines are endless."

During the court case, held in Macclesfield, six-foot tall Horan said he had suffered an "agonising" eight and a half hour flight from Manchester to Calgary in Canada, and subsequently suffered muscle spasms in his leg.

Judge Andrew Wallace threw out claims that he had suffered DVT, because there was a lack of medical evidence. But he accepted the businessman had suffered discomfort during the flight.

A spokeswoman for the St Paul at Lloyd's, which specialises in aviation insurance, said the company was unable to comment on the potential number of DVT claims, while so many cases are still outstanding worldwide.