TL:DR The nine steps to overcome aviophobia – the fear of flying. Seek professional assistance from therapists and fear of flying courses, research the science behind modern flights and learn relaxation techniques. Start off slowly by visualising the experience and once comfortable book a flight tailored to your needs. Whilst onboard, use distractions and don’t be afraid to get the help of the crew. Keep practicing by taking more flights.

So you want to travel the world but are totally afraid of flying? Until beaming into destinations in seconds like Star Trek characters is invented or you only want to travel by train, car, bus, bicycle, motorbike or boat, you will have to tackle that anxiety to reach your travel goals. There are lots of ways to reduce worrying about aerial journeys, just follow these steps and you will be on the flight path to overcoming your apprehensions.

  1. Seek Professional Assistance

There are several ways you can enlist an expert to help you with your phobia. One of the most popular tactics is to attend a specific fear of flying school that holds special classes to reduce your fears. For example, British Airways hold courses around the world where pilots, crew and a clinical psychologist will guide you through how flying works, quash any myths and build up your confidence. With over 50,000 participants in the last 30 years achieving a 98% pass rate, they are good at helping you become ready for take off.

Alternatively, seeking out the support of a trained therapist who can work with you one on one as you tackle your phobia. Another option is to use hypnotherapy.

As always thoroughly research the qualifications, testimonials, and guarantees of any therapist before you begin treatments. Even personal recommendations can be biased so do your homework prior to parting with any money.

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2) Research Flying Facts

If you are unable to seek a professional’s advice, try doing some research yourself using online and library resources. The more you become knowledgeable about flying, the more faith you will have in this method of transport. Learning about the technology, the rigorous safety checks and tests as well as the comprehensive pilot training will help you be reassured that you are in safe hands. Gaining an understanding of the air industry statistics and facts, such as the relatively low number of incidents compared to travelling by car, can help put the perfectly normal concerns into perspective.

For those of you who want quicker results there are lots of podcasts to take you through the whole ins and outs of flying, so you can just sit back and listen instead.

3) Regularly Practice Relaxation Techniques

By getting into the habit of practicing relaxation techniques not only are you more likely to be more calm and collected before boarding the plane you may also reduce your anxiety during your flight.

There are many apps to help you with meditation, breathing exercises and mindfulness, so try a few out and see which ones work for you. Be careful not to dismiss a technique too soon, it can take a few sessions to master the approach – just like anything new!

Setting homework for yourself and getting into a routine of relaxation in the morning, evening, and during other stressful events and situations mean it is easier to call on this tactic when you become anxious about flying.

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4) Begin Slowly

The best way to move towards your goal of reduced fear is very slowly. You might want to begin in a safe environment, with guidance or supervision, to visualise flying.

Start with the process of booking flights, checking-in, going through security, heading to the gate and just stepping on board. Next time repeat the above visualisation and then add pre-flight procedures such as finding your seat, putting your luggage away, strapping in etc.Then add take-off and in-flight experiences. Repeat until you feel ready to approach taking a flight in real life.

You might also be able to visit your nearest airport and familiarise yourself with how the airport operates, looks and sounds, but do check with the airport authority first. You could ask one of the ground crew to explain anything you may want to know to help you when you arrive on the day of your trip and watch some of the planes take off and land. Be aware that you won’t be able to go through security.

If you are unsure of the steps then you can follow this guide

Once you are really comfortable with the visualisations and had an airport visit or tour, book a trip with a short flight as your first test. It’s worth going with a friend or family member – someone who is a frequent flyer but also caring and considerate of your circumstances. If you don’t know anyone suitable, reach out to a MeetUp group or Facebook group for single travellers – you might find a flight pal there.

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5) Tailor Your Experience

There are lots of ways to modify how you fly so that you are more comfortable with the experience.

  • Notify the airline before you check-in that you are afraid of flying and ask for any special assistance with boarding and alerting the cabin crew to your needs.
  • See if you can choose a seat that suits your needs – aisle for easy access to space or window for distractions, up front to board last and exit first or at the back where it can be quieter.
  • You can bring a pet with you as an emotional support animal – ask your doctor about how you can get this approved
  • Or you can ask for medication that will help you to relax – only seek advice from qualified professionals who know your medical history, not the internet or your friends.
  • Arrive at the airport with time to spare so you are not rushing or arrive closer to the departure time so you do not have time to think about it.
  • Some people prefer to take in water, others to avoid caffeine, some need a stiff drink. If these are solutions for you then use them – as long as you are not drunk as you may be refused boarding.
  • If you have the extra cash then upgrade – people often deal with flying better if they are in business or first class sections of the plane which offer more privacy, space, and comforts.

Whatever specifically works for you will help you with your journey.

6) Talk to the Crew

The airline staff are there to assist you with your journey and have helped many nervous passengers before. Let them know that you have some concerns and they can keep an eye on you on board, just in case you have a panic attack. Even the process of talking it through with someone who regularly deals with anxious customers can be comforting and they have lots of ways to help you feel more relaxed in flight.

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7) Keep Your Mind Occupied

Distractions are very useful in reducing your likelihood of thinking about the flight and therefore reducing your fear. Whether it is – music, movies, crafting, reading, writing, crosswords… if it keeps you focused then bring it on board. Remember to check they are approved by the airline – no sharp implements or flammable liquids etc.

8) Onboard Mindset

If you do become fearful then use the combination of what you have already learned and put into action – rational explanations for turbulence or the sounds you are hearing, relaxation techniques, using distractions and talking with flight attendants. Be aware that even though you have worked hard to not be afraid, that being fearful is totally normal and you are not alone – there are other nervous flyers onboard too.

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9) There’s an App for That

Not surprisingly there are apps that tackle all the different techniques listed above, which is handy!

  • SOAR – “Get automatic control of flight anxiety, claustrophobia, and panic”. This app contains training videos that break down the steps of travel as well as links to weather and turbulence forecasts. It was created by a pilot, Captain Tom Bunn and Lisa Hauptner, a licensed therapist, so has all the credentials.
  • SKYGURU – An in-flight guide that explains what is happening and why, demystifying all those sounds and feelings that happen during air travel.
  • Master Your Fear of Flying – “Through a series of questionnaires, this app teaches you about the nature of your fear. You receive a Personal Recovery Program that is customised to your unique fears and worries. When using the app, you will be treated for the specific fears that are causing you the most stress, fear, and discomfort.”
  • ANA – “Now that mobile devices are allowed during takeoff, ANA saw an opportunity to create the first-ever gaming app powered by takeoff. We developed Takeoff Mode to soothe your mind from the stress of travel. It’s a fun distraction that turns takeoff into a game and makes flying more enjoyable.”
  • Headspace – “Meditation has been shown to help people stress less, focus more and even sleep better. Headspace is meditation made simple. We’ll teach you the life-changing skills of meditation and mindfulness in just a few minutes a day.”

10) Practice Makes Perfect

The more you fly the less likely you are to fear it. Even if you have one bad experience then don’t give up – get back on that horse and take another flight. It might be a long slow process, with some stumbling blocks and set backs, but that’s to be expected – otherwise, it would be a walk in the park. Try to get airborne frequently and continue to test your phobia – take longer and longer flights, try smaller planes, seaplanes or ones with propellers.

And once you have conquered your phobia? Why not sign up for flying lessons or enduring a wing walk to raise money for charity? Such a rewarding experience to finally conquer that fear!

Just remember, the sky’s the limit and after following these steps you will be soaring high above the clouds before you know it.

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