Surviving A Flight For The Fearful Traveler


With the world being more and more connected nowadays, traveling by plane has become commonplace and as ordinary as riding a bus. Despite this, the fear of flying is still present in varying degrees for many people. Some people can manage to board the aircraft but remain fearful and agitated throughout the flight. For others, the fear is too severe that they’d rather not fly at all.

Causes and symptoms

Aviophobia or aerophobia usually stem from one or a combination of a person’s existing fears such as fear of heights, being in an enclosed space, losing control, and the unknown. It could also arise from concerns on terrorism threats or just plain anxiety on being idle for hours. Whatever the reason, people who are afraid of flying experience a dry mouth, sweating palms, clenched fists, racing heartbeat, hyperventilating, and shaking from the boarding gate until the plane lands. In extreme cases, this fear causes some travelers to vomit or lose all sense of control during the flight.

What to do

The good news is overcoming the fear of flying is possible. On top of that, there is a lot to gain once you have ceased to become a fearful traveler. For one, you will be able to enjoy not just arriving at your destination but the entire journey, including the part of flying to get there.

The easiest route would be to appeal to your rational side and acknowledge existing statistics that attest to the safety of air travel – it is actually the second safest means of mass transportation next to traveling by an escalator. In fact, there is a higher chance of getting into an accident on your car ride from your house to the airport.

However, this approach can only go so far considering that the fear of flying is often irrational, being a combination of a person’s existing fears highlighted by sitting hundreds of miles on top of the ground, enclosed in a metal cylinder. The key is to acknowledge all those fears and take on some steps to keep them under control.

Before the flight

Get off to a good start by leaving for the airport early, avoiding having to worry about missing your flight which will only make you more anxious. Once at check in, request for an aisle seat near the front. An aisle seat will make you feel less claustrophobic and would keep you from looking out of the window if you are afraid of heights. You also won’t feel as much of the turbulence when seated at the front part of the aircraft compared to being at the back.

While waiting for your flight, keep yourself occupied by reading books and magazines, listening to soothing music, or enjoy a filling and nutritious meal. These activities will help you relax and even sleep during the flight. Drink plenty of water or juices to keep hydrated but avoid sugary or caffeine-filled drinks as these can make you more hyper and anxious. Doing some breathing exercises or light meditation to keep calm is highly recommended.

During the flight

during a flight

As soon as you are settled in your seat, continue your breathing exercises and try to get some sleep. If sleep eludes you, keep your mind occupied with reading, watching a movie, listening to music, or doing the crossword. If you are traveling with someone, he or she can help you keep calm and distract you from your fearful imagination.

Turbulence can happen during the flight and the best way to deal with it is to treat it like bumps during a road trip. Instead of tensing up, just let your body move along with the movement of the aircraft. Breathe deeply and keep your seatbelt fastened. This will not just help you feel secure but will also avoid injuries from the sudden movements or falling luggage.

Before your next flight

Overcoming a fear or phobia happens gradually, including the fear of flying. Thus, even if your next flight is still a few weeks away, you can already start getting ready for it. At the very least, keep practicing your breathing and meditation exercises. By the time you board a plane, keeping calm will become second nature to you.

Plane crashes do happen and if you hear them on the news, you don’t have to avoid it. That being said, you don’t have to watch all the gory details.

You can also look into courses or classes that are geared towards overcoming the fear of flying. Some are offered by major airlines, while others are run by therapists. Check out online resources as well such as and There are apps as well you can install on your smartphone that you can use during the flight such as the Flight App from the VALK Foundation.

If you want more intensive help especially if you suspect that your fear of flying stems from other phobias, regular sessions with a psychiatrist or counselor will help get to the root cause of your fears. Your doctor can also prescribe anxiety medication that you can take before a flight if breathing exercises and meditation techniques are not enough.

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