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Most people love traveling and seeing new parts of the world. However for many there is one part that is not enjoyed: the flight. For some people flying is merely an inconvenience. For others it can be truly terrifying.


The Causes

Fear of flying can be caused by a number of factors, including claustrophobia, fear of heights or a loss of control. Many nervous flyers have an anxiety that the aeroplane will  malfunction or crash. Despite reminding ourselves that flying is one of the safest things you can do and you’re more likely to become a lottery millionaire, the fear still prevails!

No matter the reason that you’re afraid of flying, there are certain things that you can do to help alleviate your phobia. Remember that choosing to fly or not to fly is a personal decision! For those of you who are determined to fly the following tips will be of help.

Learning to Cope

Before the trip

Know what to expect: understanding the basics of how an aircraft works may well alleviate your anxiety. We don’t suggest you learn to fly but knowing what engine noises and sensations to expect when is key to helping you feel more comfortable and in control

Captain Stacey Chance, an American Airlines pilot has created an excellent and free online course for nervous flyers which includes several videos and audio files which explain how a plane flies and what to expect during a flight. The course includes helpful strategies, virtual practice flights and cheatsheets. We highly recommend you look at his site: It’s won awards!


Book your seats in advance: There are some benefits in doing this, although you might need to pay extra. Choose an aisle seat if you suffer with claustrophobia. You’ll feel less boxed in and be able to move around the cabin a little easier. It will also stop you looking out the window if you are afraid of heights (and prevent you from frequently checking that the wing hasn’t fallen off). If you’re travelling with others you’ll have the peace of mind that you’re going to be seated together: another great comfort.

Be cautious with your media intake: watching air crash disaster movies or reading news coverage of plane crashes is not going to be helpful in the days before you fly. Remember that air disasters are incredibly rare.

Invest some time learning relaxation techniques: learning deep breathing or visualisation techniques will leave you feeling prepared.

Pack a goody bag: prepare a few treats, a reading book, your favourite films on your tablet computer and some relaxing music. These act as a great distraction later on…


On the plane

Meet the cabin crew: let them know that you’re nervous flyer. Most flight attendants will do their best to make sure that you are comfortable and reassured.

Remember what you’ve learned from the online fear of flying course:
– you know more about flying now and you can handle the flight
– even if you feel panicky, it won’t harm you
– nervous feeling will pass and you can use your relaxation techniques and distractions to help you through it

Be mentally in charge: Many flyers are concerned about a perceived lack of control as they have no influence over the aircraft. Trying to regain some control by reminding yourself that flying is your choice and you can choose how to respond to that experience.

Distractions: take your MP3 player a book or something else that you enjoy doing. This will help you get into a relaxed and peaceful frame of mind for the flight.

Have a drink: having an in-flight cocktail might help settle your nerves and there is nothing wrong with this. Alcohol is fine in moderation but remember that alcohol should not be mixed with any anti-anxiety medication you might be taking. Alcohol can contribute to dehydration and this effect is exacerbated due to the environment inside the cabin of the plane. If you do treat yourself to a tipple on the plane make sure you follow it up with plenty of water.

Tea and coffee might not be best: remember the caffeine is a stimulant and this may make you even more nervous join the flight.

Go with the flow: As the aviation saying goes “sit back, relax and enjoy the flight”. Remember you’re soon be at your destination enjoying that beach holiday, city break, conference or trip of a lifetime!


There are a number of courses that you can attend to help you conquer your fear of flying, many run by commercial aviation companies. We recommend the free online course at

If you are still having difficulties despite trying the above course and advice you can speak to your GP. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a short-term anti-anxiety medication before you fly. However this is not a guarantee.

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