Is the fear of flying keeping you grounded?
Are you among the 1 in 6 people whose heart rates quicken at the check in desk, who reach panic by the time they hit the gate, and who waste the last few days of their holiday fretting about the return journey home?
You can spot a fearful flyer from miles away, they’re the ones clutching their seat, ashen faced and wide eyed. You’ll find them rocking back and forth during take off, muttering to themselves and flinching at every noise. If we’ve just described you, maybe it’s time to make a change…
Safe and sound
Flying really is one of the safest ways to get around, second only to escalators in terms of safety. You have a 1 in 11 million chance of being involved in an air disaster, when compared to the 1 in 5000 chance you have of being in a fatal car accident, it’s clear to see that flying is by far the safer choice!
Our fears are not always rational though, and there are several factors that add up to a fear of flying. Just one of these is enough to cause uneasiness as the plane taxis to the runway, more than one and the fear factor quickly escalates…
Factors that can increase fear are:
- Fear of heights
- Fear of confined spaces or Claustrophobia
- Breathing in stale and recycled air
- Crowded planes
- The feeling of giving up control
Out the angst
Are you sick and tired of your fear of flying stopping you from seeing the world? We’ve come up with some helpful hints to help you overcome your dread; follow them and stay calm and we’ll have you soaring into the sky with confidence in no time!
1) Don’t be scared to share
If you need a little support on a flight, then the best thing to do is tell someone! Let the staff know at the check in desk and make sure your flight attendant is aware that you are nervous. These people are there to make your flight comfortable, and will do all they can to ensure you have as stress free a flight as possible.
2) Fly direct if you can
Why prolong your pain by taking multiple flights to your destination? Flying direct will not only save you time in the air, but will also limit you to one take off and one landing. Most search engines allow you to look solely for direct flights, so do some research when booking and look for the shortest flights available.
3) Choose a larger plane
If being in a confined space is your biggest issue when it comes to flying, you can ease your stress by booking one of the larger planes. A bigger cabin means more space to breathe so you’ll feel less like a cooped up chicken. Before booking, read all the flight details and look out for bigger aircraft like the Airbus A330 or the Boeing 747.
4) Make yourself a playlist
Nothing takes your mind of your troubles like soothing sounds, and wearing headphones is an excellent way to drown out all the sounds you keep worrying needlessly about. To combat your fear, why not create a playlist featuring the most relaxing tracks you can find. Pick your favourites and ones that have good memories associated with them and play when you start to feel anxious.
5) Don’t stress about every little bump
Modern aeroplanes are designed to withstand far greater stress than you would experience on a normal flight. Turbulence is just the plane’s reaction to soft winds; you could think of it as like little bumps in the road. That aside, we know that it can be very disconcerting when the plane starts to wobble and the seatbelt sign lights up, but try to remember that the only accidents caused by turbulence are as a result of not being buckled up or falling luggage.
6) Be prepared
There’s nothing like a bit of planning to give you back the control you crave. Be organised; don’t increase your stress factor by leaving it late to get to the airport. For the ultimate stress reduction why not book a Meet & Greet Parking Package, allowing you to cruise up to the terminal in your own car. A stay at an Airport Hotel is a relaxing way to start your holiday and could save you time and unwelcome stress before your flight.
7) Steer clear of coffee and alcohol
Although it may be true that the odd glass of wine can relax you during a flight, we don’t recommend taking this too far, as dehydration caused by alcohol can increase fear and panic in the brain. Coffee being high in caffeine is a stimulant; not what you need if you are already feeling hyped up. Why not limit yourself to decaf whilst flying and lose the rabbit in the headlights look…
8) Fly more often
Sounds ridiculous we know, but the more you do anything that scares you, the easier it becomes. You only have to sit below the flight path at Heathrow to see how many planes come and go without problem, every minute. In the same way, the more you fly successfully, the safer you will feel, and the more relaxed you will become.
9) Try the elastic band technique…
This is a great distraction tool; while flying place an elastic band around your wrist. Whenever you feel anxious due to turbulence or an inexplicable noise, snap the band against your wrist. According to therapists, the pain acts as a reality check and ultimately takes your mind off your troubles.
10) Don’t obsess about past disasters
When accidents do happen, it can be tempting to immerse yourself in all the gory details; this will not help you in any way. Try to ignore any news stories as they will only put wild ideas in your already overactive mind. Remember that air incidents are very rare, and your chance of being involved in one is tiny.
11) Distract yourself
With TV, Movies, games, music, books and papers all on offer on today’s aircraft, there are a million way to keep yourself distracted. You might want to stay away from any horror films though, as increasing your heart rate is not recommended if you are a nervous flyer. Stick to comedies and light hearted shows, and while away the hours laughing rather than worrying.
Don’t give yourself a panic attack, keep breathing deep breaths when you feel stressed. The oxygen will calm your troubled mind and help you rationalise your thoughts. Think about the exciting place you are visiting; imagine yourself lounging on the beach, or sipping cocktails as the sun goes down. The stress of the flight will melt away as you realise it is all worth it!
If your fear is not quashed by using some of the tips above, you may be in need of a serious intervention. A trip to the doctor is your first stop as they may be able to provide you with medical help and advice.
If that still hasn’t done the trick, there are a number of courses operated by airlines that are aimed at overcoming your debilitating dread, and could just be the answer to your prayers. We’ve rounded up three of the best below:
Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Without Fear course, from £120 for Ground Only, £255 for Premium course
Virgin operates Ground Only courses and also a Premium course that includes a flight, at various locations across the country. It helps over 2000 people a year, of all ages, overcome their fears. With a 98% success rate it is run by current Virgin Atlantic Pilots and a Rapid Change Therapist, Howard Cooper, and uses specialist techniques to help you combat your anxiety.
Seating you in small groups, each with their own team leader, means that you feel really looked after, and allows you to bond with your group, giving you more confidence and the strength to overcome your fears. During the second part of the course, the flight, a co-pilot gives you a commentary allowing you to understand all those little noises, and cabin crew and staff are on hand to give support.
For further details or to book visit Virgin Flying Without Fear.
EasyJet Fearless Flyer course, from £189, companion ticket for flight only £69
Hosted by Lawrence Leyton from Channel 4’s show Fear of Flying, this two part course is run over two days and operates at airports across the country. Day one lasts around 3 hours and includes the chance to grill an experienced EasyJet captain on all the concerns you may have about flying.
Lawrence then arms you with proven techniques that will banish your fears and have you feeling confident and calm about part 2, the experience flight. This is your chance to test your new found strength, with staff on hand to assist you and ease your worries. You can even take a companion on the flight if you are feeling particularly nervous!
For further details or to book visit EasyJet Fearless Flyer.
British Airways Flying With Confidence course, from £295
Over 40,000 people have attended the British Airways course, and with a 98% success rate that’s an awful lot of happy fliers. This full day course operates around the country, and features presentations by BA Pilots, who are on hand to answer your questions about the technical side of aviation.
In the afternoon a psychologist runs through some positive ways of coping with the stress factors of flying and conducts a relaxation session before the flight. Lasting 45 minutes, the flight features a running commentary of what is happening by a co-pilot with lots of support is on hand from staff members.
For further details or to book visit BA Flying With Confidence.