We are pleased to bring you The Travel
Column, written fortnightly for "The Trinidad Guardian"
Discover the Possibilities – Overcome your Fear of Flying
If you are one of the millions of people worldwide who
are afraid of flying, you know what it’s like. When booking your ticket
you examine the type of airplane you will be flying – how old is it? What
is its safety record? When was the last time this aircraft was involved in
an accident? You repeat the process for the airline and quickly rule out
unknown airlines or those that have had an accident in your living memory.
Last, but certainly not least, you look at the dates, just to make sure
there is not something inherently unlucky about the date – Is it the 13th?
That might just be okay, but definitely not Friday the 13th. Do the
numbers of the date added together and subtracted from the flight number
display any sinister warning when viewed as wingdings on Microsoft Word??
Okay, this may be a little wacky, but if you suffer from aviaphobia or
fear of flying, it is anything but a laughing matter.
Fear of flying limits life’s possibilities. You don’t
visit those places you have dreamed of your whole life, attempting to
convince yourself that there is plenty to see at home. The phobia is
usually based on the fear of dying, and yet by its very nature, you stop
living because of it – Ironic, don’t you think?
So, if you know all the statistics about it being the
safest form of transportation and that doesn’t work, then where do you
turn for help? Is there anything you can do to overcome the grip of terror
and regain life’s freedoms?
Unfortunately, like most worthwhile things in life, the
solutions do not come easy. It’s easy to be afraid, it’s not easy to
confront your fears and work through them. With some determination;
however, it is possible to board that plane and not spend the entire time
with fists clenched, heart racing and jumping at every sound or movement
the airplane makes.
- Visit your nearest airport and watch the airplanes
take off and land. Think about the fact that over 300,000 planes take
off and land every day without incident. That equals over 1.6 billion
passenger journeys a year!
- Educate yourself. Find out how a plane gets up in the
air and stays there. All those weird and wonderful noises that you hear
during take-off and landing have a perfectly simple scientific
- Learn some relaxation or breathing techniques.
Practice them frequently until you perfect the technique.
Booking a Flight
- Book the most direct flight possible. Not only will
this reduce flight time, but also the stress accompanying transfer
flights is eliminated.
- Choose your seat carefully. Figure out what scares
you about flying. Do you feel trapped inside? Then choose an aisle seat.
This will give you more room and leave you feeling less confined. Do you
worry about evacuating in an emergency? Then ask your travel agent to
book you in an emergency exit row. Are you worried about turbulence?
Then book a seat at the front of the plane where the journey tends to be
a lot smoother. If all of the above are an issue, then an aisle seat at
the front of the plane, preferably on an exit row is your ticket!
- Many people make the mistake of thinking that if they
keep busy before a flight they will stop the fear from taking grip. This
is actually counter-productive. Running around at the last minute only
leads to more anxiety. Wherever possible, plan on arriving at least 30
minutes before your scheduled check-in time. This will allow you time to
relax and work through your feelings rather than being consumed by them.
- Eat a well-balanced meal and avoid caffeine.
- Practice your relaxation and breathing techniques.
Focus on being calm, nothing else is important right now.
During the Flight
- As you enter the airplane, introduce yourself to the
flight staff and tell them you are a nervous flier. They are used to
this and they will be able to reassure you.
- Continue with your relaxation techniques during
take-off and whenever you feel your panic is taking over.
- Distract yourself throughout the flight. Be one of
those annoying travelers that talk incessantly to their neighbor! Listen
to music; watch the in-flight movie; read a book; knit a sweater for
your niece – anything except dwell on the fact that you are 35,000 feet
in the air!
If none of the above helps, then consider these facts: