8 Strategies to Help Your Fear of Flying

Emirates Plane Airbus A380

I love travelling but if you ever travel with me, you’ll learn I have a terrible fear of flying. This hasn’t always been the case – we would take flights frequently when I was a child and I never questioned it. However, in 2011 I suffered a bad case of PTSD from the Christchurch earthquakes and somehow this resulted in a lingering distrust with planes (yes it sounds odd, but apparently developing unrelated fears is not unusual).

I have refused to let this irrational fear stop me from going places, although I can’t say I ever had a choice whilst working in tourism (and living 12000 miles from family). So I had to develop strategies that would help me a) get on a plane and b) not freak out whilst on it. If you are also scared, maybe one of them will help you.

1. Suduko

Recently I threw out a dozen half-completed Suduko books, all gained from travelling. It’s a good distraction that takes your mind away from thinking negative thoughts. Simply reading doesn’t do this for me.

2. Earphones

Or in other words, music. Shut out weird plane noises (which are probably totally normal) and play something happy to keep you upbeat. Find earphones that are really good at blocking outside noise, even when there’s no music playing. And then come pre-prepared with a playlist. Good news is that most airlines allow you to keep electronic devices on during take off and landing these days.

3. Watch the air stewards

If you ever feel panicked by turbulence or a weird noise, just look at the air stewards. I have only ever had one flight where they looked slightly alarmed – other than that they are always completely calm and unaffected.

4. Fly more often!

If you are scared of something, regular exposure will help retrain your brain and show you that there is nothing to be fearful about. Avoiding plane travel will just make it worse.

Air NZ Plane to Nelson

If you are like me, the smaller planes are the worst…!

5. Learn more about planes

I was on a flight with my brother once and during take-off (the worst part), he explained how the plane got off the ground. Knowing the physics can help some people – Google is good for that (just don’t search for horror flight stories).

6. Do something scarier

Take a trip in a hot air balloon. Dive with sharks. If you live to tell the tale, you will always be able to think, “I did that, so I can get on a plane”. I try to remind myself that I went skydiving. Twice.

Hot Air Ballooning in CHCH

Hot air ballooning for me was scarier than getting on a plane!

7. Wine

Yes, sorry, I don’t wish to come across like an alcoholic but a glass can help steady the nerves. Obviously this isn’t so good for morning flights(!) If you don’t drink or need something stronger, most GPs will prescribe a small amount of diazepam if you can show you are truly anxious about it.

8. Have a plan

Fly with the airlines you are used to, pre-select your seat (I like to be close to the exit and on the aisle) and hey, it’s ok to get to the airport super early so you can buy your suduko puzzles and drink your wine.


Have your own suggestions? Please comment below.

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