How to Overcome the Fear of Flying

How to Overcome the Fear of Flying

Last update: 09 March, 2017

Sweating hands…shallow breath…chattering teeth…images of aerial mishaps running through your mind…Even if you want to, you can’t plan any trip that involves flying because it makes you panic.

You miss out on the chance to see beautiful places, visit friends and family members who live far away, and even go with your partner on the trip of their dreams: visiting the Egyptian pyramids, dancing the hula in Hawaii, or seeing kangaroos in Australia.

Did you know that the fear of flying is actually very common? It is believed that 1 out of every 4 people suffer from it. That’s a quarter of the population. And you’re one of them! The main fear is that the plane will go down, plus the fact that people are earthly creatures and we usually distrust everything that has to do with the air or the ocean.

It doesn’t matter how many times your relatives tell you that you have less of a chance of dying in an airplane accident than a car accident, or that modern planes are the safest method of transport on the planet. All of these rational statements, which seem taken out of a phobia-related self-help book, have no meaning for you.

woman hugging legs

Like any other fear, the fear of flying is related to emotions, past experiences, or even simply having seen a movie where a plane crashed. The worst part of all is that the people around you aren’t afraid of flying, so they don’t understand you. They think that you’re exaggerating, or that you don’t appreciate the opportunity to go to New York, Rio de Janeiro, or Hong Kong, just for a few hours on an airplane.

The only way to overcome the fear of flying is to fly

You can go to a psychologist, take an aerial mechanics course to understand each noise and movement that planes make, or even use a flight simulator, but none of these techniques will get rid of the fear of flying more than…flying!

It’s understandable if you panic just thinking about it. While you’re reading this article, your knees are probably shaking, you’ve probably started sweating, and your heart is probably beating faster. But instead of suffering every time somebody tells you they’re going on a trip to the other side of the world or postponing your dream vacation to a faraway place, it’s important that you breathe deeply and begin treatment.

man talking to therapist

Take a class offered by an airline. Many airlines have programs that help passengers who are afraid of flying. Start with a personal interview and then a theoretical course with pilots and mechanics to answer all your questions. Finally, do a session in a flight simulator with all the possible situations you might have to face (takeoff and landing, turbulence, technical problems, etc.).

Meditate or practice relaxation. It will help reduce the stress and anxiety that crash over you when you think about flying. Practice these techniques a few days before you schedule the trip until they become automatic.

Avoid taking substances. Many people who are afraid of flying choose to take medicine (anxiolytics, primarily) or drink alcohol on the day of the flight. The former doesn’t make the fear go away, but it allows you to get through the situation more calmly. The latter is not advised because it heightens the senses and causes upset stomach, headaches, etc. Also, impulse control is decreased.

What to do on the day of flight

You’ve built up the courage (or so you think) and finally accepted your husband or wife’s pleas to travel to Macchu Pichu or to ride camels in the desert. Congratulations! While you organized the trip, packed your suitcase, and designated a trusted neighbor to take care of your plants, there was no place for panic.

This all changes when you arrive at the airport and check into the flight. There, the unpleasant sensations start to come back. You’re on the brink of running from the terminal without caring whether your partner travels alone. Calm down. You can overcome your fear. How? With these tips:

  • Avoid the window seat. Otherwise, you’ll get very nervous when you take off, or if you’re travelling by day and can see only clouds. Also, it’s best to pick a seat near the wings, because that’s where you’ll feel the least movement.
  • Observe the crew. They’ll probably be laughing, calm, confident. This will show you that there’s nothing to fear. I would advise you to tell the flight attendant that you’re afraid, because then they’ll pay more attention to you and help you get through the most critical moments.
  • Breathe deeply. Close your eyes if necessary. Remember that turbulence is just a change in the velocity of air masses, and it doesn’t affect the safety of the airplane.
  • Bring a lot of things to do. What about a book by your favorite author, a magazine, or an entertaining movie? You could also think about what will be waiting for you when you land.
  • Wear light clothing. You’ll probably feel hot, sweaty, and bothered by everything, and you’ll want to feel as least imprisoned as possible, so your clothing should be as comfortable as possible.
people on a plane

Finally, try to fly in the company of someone who has already been on a plane before. That way, their sense of calm can spread to you, and you can hold their hand when you get scared.

If you liked this article, we recommend the following article about the 8 weirdest phobias that exist. Have you ever heard of them?

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.