Paris to Manchester, the flight is about an hour. I know that because I was a crying hysterical mess for the whole journey! And that solid hour of crying is no fun, it leaves you with a headache, mascara streaked down your face and a feeling of being a bit of a baby as you watch everyone look at you with a mixture of pity and amusement.
“It’s safer than crossing the road/getting in your car/going on a train”
I don’t know how many times I have heard that, and I know it’s true, but it doesn’t stop it feeling so unnatural. Even just looking at a plane sat at the gate filled me with dread. The tiny window and the tiny pilot, it always seemed to be quite impossible that they could ever get off the ground. I was terrified of flying for years, admittedly some flights were a lot worse than others, but I never thought I would get over it. I was always adamant it wouldn’t stop me going abroad because I loved travel too much. So I kept going. I flew occasionally as a teen and in my early twenties for holidays, but then I started travelling a lot more and in the last 3 years I have been on at countless different flights. My fear has gone, and although I don’t enjoy flying, it is not through fear, but more because I hate sitting for such long periods of time!
I can’t pinpoint an exact moment the fear disappeared, because it was a gradual process, but I can tell you some things that have helped me.
Watching documentaries about plane crashes.
I know, it sounds completely counterproductive, watching a plane full of people meet their death in an airplane, the very thing I am scared of. Yet, I loved watching these shows. The more I watched, the more I realised that it takes a lot to bring an airplane down. Not just one tiny error, but a whole series of events. It also shows you how after every accident, safety is evaluated and increased. It gives you more understanding of how planes work, how strict the standards are, and just how incredibly rare it is that one is involved in accident. I can’t say this will work for everyone, it may put some people off for life, but it could be worth thinking about!
Watching the cabin crew.
I once heard somebody say you should only be scared if the cabin crew are. So, after hearing that, the next time I went through some pretty aggressive turbulence, I watched as the cabin crew strapped themselves in, and continued chatting to each other about what they were going to do when they got to their hotel. They had absolutely no fear, as if this huge, rickety, vibrating plane was no issue at all. So hey, it probably isn’t an issue!
Read about planes.
Following on from above, once you read about what causes turbulence you will feel a whole lot better. There are countless articles on all sorts of aspects of flying. One particular fear I had was when the plane was turning, my imagination would run away and I felt we were going to do some kind of barrel roll and fall out of the sky. Another idea I had was that the wing might fall off. Type these into google search, and a whole load of information comes up which will help you understand flying, tell you why these things wont happen, and ultimately calm your nerves.
Pick your airline wisely.
There is a huge difference between being squashed between some drunken stags on a teeny tiny budget flight, and living it up in the luxury of Emirates with your own TV and staff offering you food and drink all the time! Nowadays, I usually just go for the cheapest flight available, even if that does mean twiddling my thumbs for the 14 hour flight to Manila with no TV screen, but if you have a really serious fear consider paying a little more for a better airline. I always remember flying Qatar the first time, and the air hostess noticed as I boarded I was nervous, so she took the time to come and talk to me and explain about certain noises and how much turbulence we expected. Also, if you can put your headphones in and start watching a film before take off, I recommend to do so!
Choose your seat.
Think about where you will feel most comfortable and take the time to choose your seat. Most airlines let you do this for free, or with some budget carriers you have to pay a little more, but if you know it will make a difference then just cough up for a more comfortable journey. If it eases your fears to be near an exit row, go for it. For me, having an aisle seat was always better, as looking out the window at the clouds below didn’t do much to calm my nerves. Also, maybe you want to be quite close to the toilets, or even the cabin crew. All things that can and should be taken into consideration.
Lastly, don’t stop flying!
The more flights you take, the more comfortable you will become. Sometimes, you really have to force yourself to do it, but you will most certainly regret it if you miss your week on the beach sipping cocktails for what is a few hours of discomfort.
What are your top tips for a fear of flying?
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