9 Ways to Get Over a Fear of Flying

Posted on November 2, 2018 by Eleanor McKenzie
Man's hand holding passport

Fear of flying can range from the milder “I always feel a bit nervous,” to “I never, ever fly.”

I know people in both these categories and some who are on the spectrum in between.

There are long-term coping mechanisms that arm you with the tools to combat the fear of being airborne.

To help you combat your fear of flying, here are 9 steps to get you started:

1. Identify your anxiety triggers

At what point does your anxiety start to arise?

If you can identify your earliest trigger point, when the feeling of fear is low, you have a much better chance of controlling it.

2. Arm yourself with facts about flying

Fear of flying is often based on thoughts about catastrophe. But if you read up on air travel statistics (and not horror stories), you’ll be able to have facts to help challenge your fears.

3. Anticipatory anxiety is your worst enemy

Many people report that the anxiety they feel before they get on the plane is much worse than any experience of fear during the flight.

If that sounds familiar to you, then this is a thought to hold on to while you’re waiting to board.

4. Fear and being in actual danger aren’t the same thing

Unfortunately, our bodies react to fear and danger in the same way and that can make it difficult for the person with a fear of flying to tell them apart.

Remind yourself that just because you feel anxious, this doesn’t mean you are in actual danger.

5. Understand turbulence

There are few passengers who enjoy turbulence, but it is even worse for somebody who is already nervous, especially when the plane feels like it is dropping through the sky and your stomach falls with it.

You may find it helpful to read up on how planes are built to cope with turbulence and what they do when they hit a patch.

Knowledge about what the plane is doing will help you to overcome your feelings of fear.

6. Ask your travel companion for help

Make sure that whoever you are travelling with knows how to help you, and also be clear about what is NOT helpful.

7. Each flight is a valuable experience

The more you fly, the more likely you are to overcome your fear of flying.

Therefore, every flight you take is an opportunity to make the next one better, as you are retraining your brain to be less sensitive to your anxiety.

8. Learn to fly with confidence

An eighth step that is highly recommended is taking one of the ‘flying with confidence’ courses offered by a number of airlines, including BA, Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet.

You don’t have to have booked a flight with the airlines in order to take a course and you could also buy a course as a gift for someone.

9. Acknowledge your fear

Finally, acknowledge your fear and never try to hide it.

Pretending to yourself or others that it doesn’t exist will mean it is always lurking in the background, ready to attack. Admitting a fear and accepting it is real is the first rule for a successful outcome.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.