Alex Gervash Pilot. Psychologist and fear of flying specialist.
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Advice for passengers

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Advice for passengers

How to defeat fear of flying. Advice for passengers

For some people, the flight is a real torture. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to fight fear of flying.

Fear of flying is an uncontrolled and irrational fear for flying on airplanes. According to different data, from 2.5% to 40% of the world population suffer from this disorder. Normally, fearful flyers start feeling worry and irritability several days before the flight. They sleep poorly, constantly think about air crashes and search for an opportunity to cancel the trip. Often such people refuse to get on board the plane a few minutes before the takeoff.

The fear of flame differs from anxiety as long as it happens quite often. A person flies frequently and always feels the same symptoms. The anxiety goes off when some experience of flights is collected. The fear of flying stays when the experience is big but there's no result.

On board the aircraft, fearful flyers feel nausea, heartbeat, appetite disorder, headache, trembling hands and legs, frequent calls for peeing and other symptoms. This is similar to a panic attack. While being in such a state, they cannot think clearly and perceive information adequately, that’s why no rational arguments about flight safety work with them.

Statistically, the chance to die being bit by a bee is 1 to 5 million and the chance to die in an air crash is 1 to 7 million. Every year, more than a million people die in road accidents, while only several hundred of people become victims of air crashes.

Ways to overcome fear of flying

Knowledge is power

Often the fear of flying is connected to the fear to lose control over the situation. In order not to feel themselves helpless, people can thoroughly learn the construction of aircraft, explore the route of the flight and learn by heart the rules of behavior in extreme situations. Fearful flyers will easier overcome their fear if they understand what exactly is happening on board. Don’t be shy to ask flight attendants for help, let them tell you about the situation on board, about the state of the aircraft or about the coming turbulence zone.

You should let yourself be afraid. Indeed, there are times when during the flight, the physiological state changes. That may be connected with air pits, for example. It’s okay to be afraid when you're being shaken. Thus, we normalize the anxiety, which can occur from the state that happens during the flight one way or another.

Become a pilot

Everyone is familiar with the fear of the unknown in some way. If you're afraid to fly, try to attend a flight simulator practice and imagine yourself a pilot, confident in his own powers and his steel bird's reliability. Thanks to aviation training machines, airplanes will stop inspiring fear in you by its unpredictability. By the way, you will face your fears. As people say, fight fire with fire.

Reconnaissance by combat

Try to arrive to the airport in advance to watch takeoffs and landings of planes, work of staff of the air harbor, behavior of happy tourists, anticipating a trip to a resort. Such a reconnaissance by combat will help you to get used to the situation and to relieve the tension.

Choosing a seat

For fearful flyers, it is not recommended to sit by the illuminator and in the tail of the aircraft, where the turbulence feels stronger. Choose seats near the passage, preferably in nose or middle part of the cabin.

Choosing the right clothes

If you breathe heavily and sweat out of fear on board the airplane, make sure to choose the comfortable clothes made of natural materials. No ties, corsets and other things strangling your movements preventing you to breathe freely. It makes sense to take off your shoes and put on your favorite home clothes, which breathes warmth and comfort.

Distract yourself!

During the flight, try not to think about bad things. Switch your attention to an interesting book, movie, videogame or pleasant music. You can keep a diary and monitor your emotions. If you have an opportunity, make a conversation with a fellow passenger. An ideal option is to communicate with a close person who knows about your fears and is ready to calm you down with a joke or a caress.

You need to fix your attention at the pleasant moments that can help you to make a flight. You need to have some experience inside an airplane, which can break you free of fear of flight.

Full relaxation

Before the trip, master one of the popular relaxation technics. You can breathe deep or count to 100 or say the phrase “I’m not afraid to fly”. Such methods allow you to relax but not lose the focus and clarity of mind. Try also to imagine in details your successful landing, comfort ride to the destination point and the following recreation or business meeting. Positive visualization makes miracles.

You need to work with the thoughts that prevent you from flying. Why am I afraid? Why do I worry? You need to write down those thoughts and try to apply to them the technic, which is used in cognitive psychology. I’m afraid of takeoff, I’m afraid of landing... You should try to dissect the fear in parts and work with each of them.


If you know for sure that you suffer of fear of flying not of the regular pre-flight worry, then ask for help from specialists. They will get to the roots of your fear of flying and help to eliminate them. Sometimes people cannot fly because of the fear of confined spaces and height, because of a childhood trauma, or because of the painful experience, connected with previous flights.

Center for the study and treatment of fear of flying “Flying without fear” is a place where the best specialists of this sphere gathered together. Having addressed to us, you will get the support of experienced psychologists, the firsthand knowledge from the pilots about the mechanisms of work of air transport, real and imaginary dangers and many other things.

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