According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in every 6 people has an acute fear of flying or 'aerophobia'. In the USA alone, it is estimated that 25% of the population suffers from some form of fear of flying be it a general nervousness or debilitating. There is no specific demographic, it can affect anyone from a child to a high profile businessman and is not gender specific. Employees for company’s all over the world need to rid themselves of this fear, as travelling to various countries on a regular basis is now considered to be a normal job requirement.
Are you Aerophobic?
A person may dread an upcoming trip well before the time of departure. When they finally reach the airport they feel nauseous/anxious and may consider cancelling the trip. In some extreme cases this may prevent someone from going on an important business trip, a holiday abroad or even stop them from visiting relatives. This is when aerophobia can begin to influence your work and/or lifestyle.
This fear has many components including:
- The dislike of small spaces
- Fear of heights
- Not understanding the unusual sounds
- Lack of control
- Feeling trapped
This may result in symptoms such as:
- Racing heart
- Panic attacks
Unfortunately for many, the fear of any of these symptoms occurring on the aircraft, make the fear even worse.
The Media Effect
Fears of terrorism since the media frenzy, sensationalizing the event of 9/11 and the recent disappearance of MH370, has made the fear of flying for some more vivid. Even though there are thousands of car accidents every day they rarely make the news, yet a plane crash (even when there are no fatalities) will be captured and rolled out by the media for days or sometimes weeks after. There are often stories of air rage resulting in 'terror in the skies' headlines when a drunk or angry passenger tries to open an aircraft door. In reality, no-one can open an aircraft door in flight - the air pressure outside is so strong that it cannot happen, even if someone attempts it.
Turbulence and Weather - Don't be Afraid!
Aircraft are designed for bad weather and turbulence and checked every day for damage. In severe weather, the pilots can divert the aircraft to another airport or use the radar to fly around the weather. Essentially, turbulence is just bumps of air, and only severe if the Cabin Crew are asked to be seated. Lightening does hit aircrafts sometimes but doesn’t generate any form of significant damage. 99% of all injuries that occur during turbulence are due to the seatbelt being unfastened or falling luggage.
In Safe Hands
Pilots are highly skilled and have spent years training, gaining many flying hours before working for an airline and are monitored every 6 months to check their abilities. Cabin Crew are trained intensively in safety and emergency procedures, fire fighting and aviation first aid and are checked every so that they can stay up to speed on their duties. Everything that Pilots and Cabin Crew learn has a procedure, a drill and a checklist and we are trained to follow these back to front and inside out at the mere hint of an emergency. So, consider yourself in very safe hands.
If you have a fear of flying don’t be scared to tell us. We may be able to move you to sit close to us for takeoff and landing and reassure you and explain any strange noises or what is happening. We can also check on you during the flight to make sure that you are ok. If you get airsick we can move you to the centre of the aircraft where you will feel the motion less.
- If you have blocked ears, yawning or chewing gum will help or you can pinch your nose and blow it at the same time and your ears should clear.
- If you feel you might hyperventilate, there is a sick bag in the seat pocket – you can blow in to this and help control your breathing.
- Sip water and avoid alcohol
- Try and keep busy (listen to music, watch a movie, do Sudoku) to take your mind off things.
If you feel that aerophobia is affecting your work or lifestyle you can try:
- Hypnosis - either by visiting a hypnotherapist or by using a CD, download or app
- Free eBooks and courses online
- Cognitive or behavioral therapy
- A fear of flying course with a local airline - these have a 95% success rate!
Flying is statistically still the safest way to travel should you be attending a family gathering or international business meeting. Road accidents are the biggest killer as figures demonstrate you’re more likely to be kicked to death by a donkey than to die in a plane crash. There is just a 1 in 11 million chance that you will be killed in a plane crash – ironically, the most dangerous part of your journey is the drive home from the airport.