Experts can help you overcome your fear of flying

Experts can help you overcome your fear of flying

01.09.2022 Off By manager_1

shallow focus photography of people inside of passenger plane

We asked psychologists and behavioral experts, as well anxious flyers, to help us overcome our fear of flying. Aerophobia, or flight anxiety, refers to a fear of flying. It is a feeling of extreme fear and dread when you fly. The triggers can range from fear of a terrorist attack or a crash to feeling trapped and claustrophobic. However, the effects can be severe enough that some people avoid flying altogether.

A lot of people experience anxiety about flying, and many panic attacks begin before they even take off. These symptoms are very similar to general anxiety. A person with flying anxiety will experience sweaty palms, increased heart rate, shortness, tension headaches, and panic attacks.

It’s much more common than you might think. Jane Hawker, a former air stewardess, says that around 30% of passengers aboard were nervous flyers. There were many reasons for fear. Fear of the unknown, lack of knowledge about aircraft operations, safety concerns, horror hearsay stories and the fact that you feel completely out of control at 33,000 feet in a metal tube.

There are ways to overcome fear of flying if it is affecting your life or preventing you from traveling without anxiety.

Fear of flying is often a complex issue that cannot be explained by one factor. Mita Mistry, cognitive behavioral therapist and author, How to Understand and Deal With Social Anxiety, says that aerophobia can be rooted in fear of heights, past terrible experiences with flying, learned behavior from anxious parents, or even passed down through genetics. Overexposure to news stories about flying disasters or films can increase the fear of flying. This is a common human experience, and nothing to be ashamed about.

Abdullah Boulad, a psychologist who specializes in behavior and the founder of The Balance rehab center, explores phobias more. According to him, “Phobias may be rational or irrational.” Fear of flying can be manifested as fear in the present if there is a fear of negative future experiences. This is a learned response that most people use to avoid negative experiences. However, logic can be used to overcome this fear if the reward outweighs any risk. Patients with phobias can’t overcome this reaction and will often fight to protect their fears, making it difficult for them to overcome without having coping mechanisms.

Tamara Martin’s aerophobia is a result of her childhood fear of heights. “My fear of flying was first recognized at seven years old, before my first family trip to Spain.” She was previously extremely anxious about heights before this. “During takeoff, I panicked and had a fit. I can recall being comforted by the cabin crew and passengers on the row. But it got worse when I felt turbulence and my ears started to pop. I cried all the way to the airport and didn’t even look up for the entire flight. My head was down, my hands were over my ears. I’d never felt so petrified. It was horrible. I didn’t fly again until I was 29.”


Flying anxiety triggers can be complex and may involve multiple factors. The key to treating it is understanding that not all flying anxiety triggers are related or even to the aircraft. Christopher Paul Jones, Harley Street’s official Fear of Flying Expert and author of Face Your Fear of Flying, explains. There may be other triggers such as claustrophobia or fear of heights. Understanding the root causes of fear and phobia can help you to overcome them.

The consequences can be severe if a passenger panics. Jane, a former air stewardess, explains that passengers with extreme fear of flying can show up at the airport door in tears and shaken. It can be difficult to even get onboard.

  • Turbulence
  • Anxiety about take-off
  • Anxiety about landing
  • Fear of terrorist attacks
  • Fear of crashes
  • Fear of the plane being taken over/hacked
  • Claustrophobia
  • Fear of crowds and social anxiety
  • Fear of heights
  • Far from home
  • Controllability is not an option


Recognizing the signs and symptoms of an aerophobia is a good way to prevent it from spiraling out of control. These symptoms are similar to general anxiety symptoms and may vary from one person to another.

  • Dry mouth
  • Racing pulse
  • Sweating palms
  • Negative or racing
  • Irritability
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizziness
  • Tension headaches
  • Sickness
  • More frequent trips to the toilet
  • Heavy breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Tensed muscles


Jones, a fear of flying expert, suggests that understanding the root cause of the phobia is the first step in overcoming it. “Flight anxiety can be treated like any other phobia by using a combination a variety of psychological techniques that scramble and rewind the fear and then finally replacing it with a more positive thought process.”

Tamara found comfort in the process of building her tolerance for each flight after a 20 year hiatus. “I fly regularly to overcome my fear of flying. Every flight I take has helped me overcome my fear. It has been easier to accept that I am not in control of my life and have made it more manageable.”

We asked experts to give us their top tips to help you overcome your fear of flying.


Challenge negative thoughts. It is not helpful to imagine the worst case scenario, such as a crash or severe turbulence. These are thoughts and not reality, Mistry says. There are very few chances of you dying in a crash with a plane. It is possible to have this information ready before you board a flight.

A Harvard University study found that one in 1.2 million people will be in an airplane crash, and one in 11,000,000 that they will die in the crash. The chance of being in an accident with a car is one in 5,000.

It’s important to have a balanced view by learning about the safety of planes as well as the science behind flying. Mistry suggests that you watch YouTube videos of planes landing and taking off, and listen to the sound of the turbulence to get used the sensations of flying.


Positive thinking can be very helpful in this area, as Harley Street Fear of Flying Expert Jones explains. He suggests that you keep your eyes on the destination of the journey. Imagine yourself relaxing on the beach and enjoying the views, rather than worrying about being on a plane. This will help you to shift your focus from fear.


Let others around you know that you are feeling anxious, regardless of whether they are your travel companions and cabin crew. Mistry advises, “Acknowledge your fear of flying and tell someone.” People often feel that they are too weak to open up, and they fear being judged. It is not possible to be more wrong. You can conquer it if you know what it is. You’re more likely to get support and empathy to help you overcome your fear. You will feel more supported and less isolated if you can overcome your fear of flying. This will help you live the rich life you desire.


When you are ready to travel, try mindfulness before and after the flight to reduce stress. Expert in anxiety Mistry says that this will reduce the symptoms of aerophobia.

“Travel with someone you trust, who can understand your fear. Let flight attendants know. You will be fine and supported.” You can also use sleep-guided meditations to help you relax and drift off during long-haul flights. To manage airport anxiety, it is important to learn how to cope with stress over the long-term.


Fear of Flying expert Jones uses anchoring in his clinic. The process is explained by Jones: “Remember a time when your mind was calm, focused, and peaceful. If you can’t remember a specific moment, try to imagine how it would feel to feel that way. Pay attention to what was happening around you. What were you seeing, hearing, saying, and what were the smells and tastes? Pay attention to how you are sitting and standing.

Allow yourself to re-experience the calm and peaceful feelings. When the feelings reach their peak, close your fist and hold it tightly. Release it as soon as the feelings begin to fade.


Talking to the pilot of the plane can be a good way to get reassurance. Jane relates her experiences as an air stewardess. “Sadly since 9/11, visits are very rare to the flight deck, but they are still possible prior departure and after landing.”

The pilots can provide explanations about what will happen, when it will occur, what to expect, and the common sounds to watch out for. These noises are not alarming and can be relied upon by passengers. You can also ask questions to get reassurance and peace-of-mind.


The cabin crew is also available to calm nervousness during flights. Jane said that although crew aren’t trained to handle fear of flying, they are intuitive and have the ability to support nervous flyers. They can also use their skills to calm passengers.


All phobias can be overcome with the assistance of trained therapists. These techniques calm the mind and help patients not react to their fears. These techniques can include visualizations and breathing techniques.