Are You Scared of Flying?

One of every six adults has aviophobia, the fear of flying. Do you? I’m not scared of flying, but since I’m freaked out by other things (elevators, spiders, the dark), I know how it feels to be panicky and out of your comfort zone. Here are 10 ways to chill out when you’re nervous…

1. Remember that big commercial airplanes are super safe and easy to fly. I was once sitting next to an off-duty captain and he lamented to me, “Flying a commercial plane is like driving a bus. So easy, it’s boring!”

2. Turbulence is usually greater at the back of the plane, so ask for a seat as close to the front of the plane as you can get.

3. Remind yourself that air travel is the second safest mode of transportation in the world (second only to elevators and escalators). The chances of being in an accident are about one in 11 million.

4. Don’t drink coffee or eat chocolate in the hours leading up to your flight, since caffeine can cause nervousness.

5. Breathe deeply—in through your nose and out through your mouth. Deep breathing can really calm your nerves. (I learned this from lamaze!)

6. Did you know there are actually classes for fearful flyers? (Like this one.)

7. Prevent your mind from obsessively imagining worst-case scenarios by reading a book or watching a movie. I’ve found that crossword puzzles or Sudoku are the most helpful, since they require just enough concentration.

8. Another way to distract yourself from scary thoughts is to list baby names from A to Z. Start with boys—”Adrian, Bobby, Charlie…”—and then list girls’ names—”Amanda, Beatrice, Charlotte…” Works like a charm.

9. Picture exactly what you’re going to do once you get off the plane. When I get claustrophobic in an elevator, I’ll think to myself, “I’m going to walk down the hallway and see my friend, and tonight, I’ll watch 30 Rock reruns and make cheesy pasta.” By focusing on what will happen after the scary incident (elevator ride, plane trip), you can distract yourself from your jitters and mentally fast-forward through the event.

10. If all else fails, have a giant glass of wine before the flight, haha.

Are you scared of flying? What do you do to keep calm?

P.S. Plane picnics and travel beauty.

(Fun facts found on the Mayo Clinic and NBC by Caroline)

  1. Thanks for sharing…!!!
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  2. Amazing tips, i myself am not afraid of traveling but i have flown with a bunch of friends or family who have this fear. Out of all of the tips i highly recommend a glass of wine and casual conversation, distraction is key!

  3. Good tips. There are also people whose difficulty with flying is deeper, either due to a terrible flight or due to needing to be in control or able to escape (to regulate anxiety and panic). Generally, they have “tried everything” and believe nothing will work. My book is written for them: “SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying” chosen as Amazon Editors’ Favorite 2014 Book. If you look at the reader reviews, you’ll see why.

    Some comments suggest meds. Not a good idea. They backfire. They never work well enough and each time you fly with them, flying gets a bit worse until meds do nothing at all for you. If you encounter turbulence when on meds, you probably will never fly again because meds in turbulence can cause PTSD. Read

  4. I used to be afraid of flying. I’m an anxious person anyway so being afraid to fly was sort of in my wheelhouse. So, I took a job in Dubai and traveled between DC and Dubai twice per month. It’s amazing how quickly you get over your fear when you fly 150,000 a year:) Thanks for sharing the article.

  5. This is actually really helpful. When I saw the title I thought “tips won’t help me!” haha I’ll try these out. The Claustrophobia thing is what really gets me! gah!

  6. Meredith says...

    Valium. Or any kind of anti-anxiety med. I’ve had a fear of flying for as long as I can remember and this is the only thing that has worked. And I’ve tried almost everything. It won’t stop the bad thoughts, but it will block the physical reaction that takes those thoughts to the next level that eventually leads to the panic attack. Better living through chemistry!

  7. Actually I’m very afraid of flying, its Makes my stomach turn over even if I just think about flying or airplane.

    I worked on this issue many years, Ive took courses, read many books about it and I’m still deal with it,

    It’s important to know that overcoming the fear of flying its a process and each person deal with it on its own way.

    I recommend to read all about Aviation, how does airplane works, plane crash statistics and even to take a professional course about it.

    I used the following resourses:

  8. What a great post. Really good tips. I’m not a nervous flier, but hear about this very serious issue often.

    I would add talking to your dr about a non-habit forming anti-anxiety medication for flights only – especially if you fly for work.

    You CAN work through this issue. I’m going to link to this on my website where I write about traveling with the kids.

    Valuable info! Thanks for sharing.
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

  9. I know I’m way late in commenting on this post, but my fear of flight is one of the reasons I left my old job. Everytime my husband drove me to the airport I pleaded, in tears, for him to find a good mama for my kids if I didn’t come back.
    She had to make sure there were always fresh flowers in the house. Hahaha! :)

  10. I’m afraid of flying so I take really early flights so that I just fall asleep. And if I’m flying to Europe and it’s an evening flight, I drink enough alcohol which also puts me to sleep! ;-)

  11. I don’t have fears of flying, but I do live in Denver where the turbulence is enough to shake anyone to their core. Now that we can keep cell phones on (in airplane mode) through the whole flight, I’ve discovered that dancing/bouncing in my seat to upbeat music during the turbulence really takes away the worst of it. When your body is purposefully moving, you don’t notice the plane shaking as much.

  12. I’ve also developed a fear of flying as I’ve gotten older. There are lots of good tips in the comments. Mine are:
    Sit in the very last row. There is something comforting for me to have a solid wall behind me.
    Don’t be afraid to cry. The tears can rid your brain of some of the chemicals that are making you scared. If I’m alone – I get a window seat, put on my sunglasses,and don’t worry if anyone notices my tears.

  13. Love your blog- and just came across this post. I developed a fear of flying after 9/11, but more about malfunctions than terrorism. It got so bad I didn’t fly for years. Now that I have children, I refuse to fly without them, but I don’t want to hold them back from experiences so I have flown twice in the past year. My flight last month to nyc was the best yet since my fear has developed. It was relatively smooth and I’ve finally figured out the magic dosage of Xanax to take the edge off a bit. Xanax is a complete godsend and I will never fly again without it.

    • Kristen says...

      Oh please share your magic dosage!! I’m leaving on a plane in 2 days and I’m already having major anxiety. I have my bottle of Xanax ready but unsure that it will help!?

  14. I have had a fear of flying (serious fear) ever since I started watching Air Crash Investigation several years ago. Worst decision ever. I educate myself through reading books on plane mechanics and watching videos by pilots; I do meditation mid-air and listen to calming music; I deep breathe; I try to relax my palms… it is all only momentary relief. My heart races and I want to escape. Every time I get over my fear and have a successful flight… something happens on the news regarding a plane. And then this thing in Malaysia where they just LOST a plane and admit that there are gaps where the plane is not being tracked. Man, that has made me so fearful to fly again. Seriously. But really for me it’s about a fear of trusting other people. Trusting the pilots, trusting the passengers and sadly.. you can’t always.

  15. I am terrified of flying. I feel nauseous from fear just writing about it. I do have to fly, as I am from Russia and I want to see my family. Once I was sitting on a plane next to a pilot who was going home to Denver. We were on the rout NYC – Denver, CO. She just came back from her work (she flew a commercial plane NYC – Madrid – NYC). We were stuck for an hour on the runway and she was patiently explaining to me how I need to take lessons: “Once you learn to fly a plane, you know how it works and fear goes away”. When we finally were in the air and allowed to unbuckle the seat-belts, I realized that I didn’t have one all this time. I thought she will kill me – she was so mad at me: “If we hit turbulence while taking off, you might’ve been killed. You worry about flying, but not worried about more realistic things!!!”

  16. I am such a nervous flyer that I usually clean my house and call up my friends and family to say goodbye just in case.

    I feel an extreme anxiety and sense of dread the minute I think about booking a flight.

    Once at the airport, I find that my anxiety causes me to completely evacuate my gastrointestinal tract well before the flight. I’ve tried taking Benadryl along with multiple drinks but they didn’t seem to take effect until the moment I landed. An earlier poster mentioned that the fear is greater on the return flight and I find this to be the case as well. I also try to calm myself by watching the flight attendants but that only helps a smidge.

  17. Thanks- I fly in the early hours of the morning to Berlin for the weekend. I am much better at flying than I once was, but I still get nervous. It’ll be worth it, tho’ and I am about as sure as possible it’ll be just fine. I just like having my feet on solid ground!

  18. Thanks for sharing these tips! I too am scared of flying. I am able to keep it together if everything goes smoothly but one little turbulence and you will find me crying hysterically. I just really hate being away from the ground. I have two overseas flights this year but I’m still pretending it’s not happening ;)
    I find that I am so nervous that I have to shut out any stimuli I can when flying because trying to distract myself doesn’t work – I usually close my eyes and pretend I’m somewhere else entirely. Works surprisingly well as long as there are no bumps :)

  19. I love to fly. I like the anticipation of knowing I’m going somewhere, of finding my seat, of looking out the window when the cars below look like ants. I always look forward to take off the most. It’s my favorite part.

  20. The advice here is good – as far as it goes – but it gives anxious fliers only weak tools to control panic, the same  tools we used at Pan Am back in 1975 in the original fear of flying course started by Captain Truman “Slim” Cummings.

    Breathing exercises and relaxation exercises are useless in the air. Distraction is fine until there is turbulence; then it doesn’t hold up.

    Because the existing tools were inadequate, in 1982 I founded SOAR to search for more effective tools. It took years, with the help of brain scan technology that taught us how the mind words, a way was found to train the mind to NOT react when the plane drops in turbulence.

    By training the mind to not react, and to not release stress hormones during turbulence, everyone can fly comfortably and confidently, even extreme cases, even people who panic the thought of flying.

    Read my blog in Psychology Today on how to protect yourself from bad advice. It is at

  21. I am a pilot’s daughter (and grand daughter!) and grew up taveling a lot and living in several countries. I used to think turbulence was fun, like a ride. Somehow in the past year it’s started to terrify me! I just cannot wait to get off. We’ve had some more turbulent flights than usual, and I also wonder if it has anything to do with becoming a mother (although that was two years ago). Next time I’ll try to have Rescue Remedy spray on hand, and maybe a glass of wine!

  22. I get nervous on planes, not because I think of all the things that could go wrong but because I can’t wrap my head around the physics of keeping such a huge thing in the air. It’s silly but I just keep thinking “none of this should be physically possible”. I find it easier to be calm about flying when I’ve taken something against motion sickness – it makes me a bit sleepy and if I’m lucky I’ll just doze off.

  23. I don’t like flying either. I am claustrophobic and have irritable bowel syndrome, so I get really afraid of being trapped in my seat and not being able to get to a bathroom when I urgently need one. I get sick to my stomach every time I travel, so this is a realistic fear. Ativan helps. The last couple of times I flew I was pregnant and then nursing, so I had to fly drug-free. Next time I fly I’ll probably take the drugs again.

  24. I wasn’t scared of flying until the Malaysia Air flight went down. I was on a plane every other day for the next month after that, INCLUDING a 11 hour flight into Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Air just a week after the flight had disappeared. The was delayed a few hours because the entire flight crew had to go through extra screening, and bomb sniffing dogs searched the plane. We get on the plane and it’s the exact same model that had been lost, I couldn’t help but think how the missing plane would have been identical, someone was sitting in my exact seat on that flight, and now they are gone. It was eery. Then we took off through a tropical storm in Auckland so the first two hours was some of the most turbulent air I’ve ever been in. EVERYONE on that plane was nervous. I’d never even given flying a second thought, sometimes I’d even fall asleep before the plane took off. Now, I can’t quite shake the feeling of “what if”.

  25. I usually take a couple of homeopathic “chill pills”, like Calms Forte. I also need to make sure I have Adavan with me-just in case! Never needed to actually use it, YET!

  26. Like many of you, I wasn’t afraid of flying until my early 20’s. But that’s because my dad was an aviation attorney and brought home 2 black box recordings (Value Jet in the Everglades and AA in Colombia). They were simulated over a motion graphic video of the plane. So creepy!!!! Eeek!! One was due to extremely tired and overworked pilots and the other was caused by a man on the ground that lied about checking the plane before take-off. My dad still says my fear of flying is one of my biggest weaknesses – ha!! It’s just take off and landing that bother me. I have xanax too and just do the best that I can. I never want to let it get in the way of my travels!! :)

  27. I’m SO scared of flying and I do it all the time! It just started about a year and a half ago. Not sure why. I’m comforted by remember what my brother told me his flight attendant friend told him: that turbulence is kinda like a car going over a speed bump. I have no idea if that’s true but I’m gonna go ahead and believe it.

  28. I’m not afraid of flying but I do get the WORST motion sickness, so now, all I obsess about whether or not I’m going to toss my cookies and how the people around me will react. I was once terribly ill and not a sole said a word or asked if they could help.

  29. Reading this was pretty (un)timely because I just got back from my first trip to California from Boston on Monday. Wish I saw it last week!!! The flight there was literally the worst of my life. Last row -at night- turbulence – tornadoes on the ground – the whole thing. The flight home, I took two dramamine and half an anti-anxiety pill (it was also during a sunny day) and woke up in Boston. Never flying drug-free again. Thanks for this post though, I do need to learn to chill!!!

  30. I always get very nervous flying. I just get drunk at the airport bar.

  31. I always get very nervous flying. I just get drunk at the airport bar.

  32. I hate flying! I take Dramamine to help with the dizziness flying causes me to have. It also makes me so drowsy which helps calm my nerves.

  33. Terrified of flying!! I have flown a million times, but something happened when I was 17 years old and haven’t been the same since. However, I knew that I never wanted it to keep me from traveling which I ironically, love. Deep breaths, a glass of wine, lots of praying & my boy on my side. I’m a fear-of-flying survivor.

  34. I’m not afraid of flying but I’m with you on elevators – I am so scared of them!! So much so that I go out of my way to find the (sometimes really creepy and dirty) stairs!

  35. I wanted to comment that I think the way flight attendants handle people who are afraid of flying is despicable.

    I think if they were better trained on how to HUMANELY handle nervous passengers, then less people would feel so panicked.

    My husband had a panic attack once just before take-off. He was travelling alone and didn’t really know what to do. His seat mate noticed he was in distress and called the attendant over. She immediately turned aggressive toward him telling him he needed to exit the plane because he was a safety threat to the other passengers.

    He was sent off the plane and left alone in the airport at midnight with no one to help him out.

    If someone went into labor or started having a heart attack, you wouldn’t just send them on their way to deal with it alone, you would HELP them.

    Anxiety is very real and sadly I don’t think it’s respected enough as a serious medical condition by the airline and airport employees.

  36. This is really helpful! I’m not scared of flying but have issues being a passenger in a car on the highway. I’m going to use some of these tips for that situation as well.

  37. “maybe it’s because in my mind a giant flying metal thing defies all logic, or maybe it’s because if anything happens, there’s no way out! “

    THAT is exactly what I think!

  38. I hate flying. I know statistically it’s the safest form of travel but maybe it’s because in my mind a giant flying metal thing defies all logic, or maybe it’s because if anything happens, there’s no way out!

    I deal with it by boozing.

  39. I’m not scared of flying myself, but once I experienced terrible turbulence and told a friend who has been a flight attendant for years. She said to me, “Turbulence never causes plane crashes.” It’s such a simple statement but coming from someone who flies for a living, I felt a lot better and have about turbulence ever since.

  40. ND says...

    I get a bit freaked out, but I usually only take short flights not over water so I don’t worry as much. Still, when there’s turbulence I close my eyes, breathe slowly, and squeeze my boyfriend’s hand if he’s there. I also feel more concerned when my loved ones fly then when I fly myself — I have been known to track their flight online or make them call me when they land. :)

  41. I used to be terrified of flying, and I still don’t love it, but I fly monthly for work and I just decided I didn’t want to be afraid since I love to travel. Like other posters said, if the flight attendants look calm then you’re probably ok. Noise cancelling headphones are the best! I try to look out the window now too, it really is beautiful. Also now that I have a baby I am either too busy making sure she doesn’t melt down or enjoying reading a magazine by myself to be afraid!

  42. I’m not scared of flying but I am scared of being in cars. Driving or not driving, I get very anxious. Much worse, since cars are everywhere. It’s one of the reasons why I live in NYC – I can take the subway most of the time.

  43. I agree! Front of the plane is best! I also turn on the air vent above me on full blast during take off and landing… I find that if I get even the littlest bit warm or hot/sweaty it makes me more nervous. So I shiver through take off and landing!

    I find vodka to be a much better “mellower” for me when flying than wine though ;)

  44. Yes! I get super nervous sometimes but have learned to master it.

    There are three components for me:

    1.Glass of wine (or screwdriver if it is a morning flight).

    2.Candy Crush on my ipad

    3.Blasting music that makes me feel like a badass at high volume through my headphones. The last flight I was on it was Metric (the kickass female lead singer makes me feel like I can take on anything! Corny, but true!)

    It has also helped a TON now that the airlines allow you to listen to music during take off and landing.

    And if all that fails, I squeeze my husbands hand until he yells at me it hurts. :)

  45. I’m not afraid of flying, but I’m incredibly claustrophobic. I’m in my mid 40’s and it’s getting worse every year. I try to tell myself that I can move freely,nothing is holding me down. But it doesn’t matter. I’m enclosed and I can’t get out. It’s the worst feeling of panic.

  46. I flew a few weeks after 9/11. I even had a layover in Newark, so I saw everything from above. that was a day i was terrified of flying. having a window seat helped. I don’t know why. But being able to look out the window instead of focusing of who was on the plane (since in that instance, my fear was less of a plane malfunction…)

    evey now and then a wave of “what if” hits me when I fly. It’s rare. But it happened the last time i did. Now that you can listen to music during take-off, that helped TONS. I listened to something very soothing (Sun Kil Moon, J Tillman) and pressed my forehead to the window. Like a little music video playing in my head or something.

  47. I used to be full-on terrified of flying. I’ve had panic attacks on planes.

    I just made the decision it couldn’t get in the way of the life I wanted to lead – I love to travel to new places.

    First I never have coffee as you recommended. I did ask my doctor for clonzepam to start, but now I don’t take anything. The more you fly, the easier it gets. yes, you will be a sweaty panicky mess but you must keep on flying as much as you can. of course, this is expensive but each chance you get to go somewhere if you can you must!

    I like to watch everyone else being very calm. that helps a lot. I like to watch a movie on the ipad during takeoff (my personal least favorite part) and play cards once we are up there. I used to think staring out the window and always being able to see helped, but I was wrong…I’m twice as calm if I close my window. It gives me a false sense of control and once I learned to give it up I’m much much more relaxed.

    I don’t think any of the logical arguments people make have any difference on my feelings towards it – phobias have nothing to do with logic and when people say oh the stats blah blah, it is the least helpful thing ever haha.

  48. I’m super scared of flying. I wasn’t at first, but after a turbulent flght, I stopped flying. I tried EVERYTHING, even psychotherapy, but nothing worked. Eventually, I decided to take a medication (clonazepam). It was like a miracle! All my fears disappeared! I can’t believe I spent 13 years without flying. I’m still scared, though, but now I know what to take.
    (I don’t drink alcohol, so I don’t know if a glass of wine would do the trick).

  49. I don’t usually comment but this topic is so true for me. As many people said, I have gotten more anxious about flying the older I get. But I am not worried about the plane and safety – I am ok with that. What bothers me is that I feel trap – very claustrophobic. I am surprised, Jo, that it doesn’t bother you. I hate the feeling of being trapped and having no way out. So as many other people said, I have given in and now take a Xanax before every flight and it helps so much. My doctor convinced me that there is nothing wrong with taking a Xanax and it is the only time I need it. Thanks for the article!

  50. I get super nervous for the take off only for some reason. I have a weird way of calming myself – I try to find someone around me who looks calm and cool and I keep stealing little glances at them when it seems like there are lots of bumps! I make up a little story in my head about where they’re coming from, where they’re going and then by the time the bumpiness is over I’m usually okay. I also found once I had kids that flying with them distracts me so much from my fear – keeping them busy, feeding during takeoff etc.

  51. LB says...

    That horrible, warm, tiny bottle of “red wine” they serve on flights is my flight friend. That, coupled with thinking “every bump of turbulence is one bump closer to getting there.”

  52. I’m not a great flyer. Music, books, snacks, and Xanax usually distract me.

  53. I’m scared of flying since I had to fly in a light aircraft from Costa Rica to Panama. I was 16 years old and I had taken lots of flights before, but this experience was terrifying for me since the aircraft had no cabin pressurization, the noise was terrible and the eight passengers and our respective baggage where placed in one or other side of the aircraft depending on our weight, to balance!! (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) When a week later I had to take the same light aircraft to come back to Costa Rica, I began crying so hard my parents even considered not taking the aircraft!! But in the end we flew back. Since this day I have panic of flying (I’m 22 now) but every year I take an average of two flights anyway. It’s a rough time for me and every time I try to drug myself, I’ve taken from herbs like valerian to diazepam, and nothing has worked for me, but this 1st of May I took a flight to Roma and I did it very well thanks to homeopathy! I’m so happy. I was nervous, but it did wonders on me. I didn’t worry beforehand, I didn’t have any problems to breath (I used to hyperventilate a lot), I didn’t tremble, I didn’t cry even during the take off and landing (the worst parts for me, a part from turbulences). And when I took the back flight to Barcelona, I did well again, so I’m starting to think I’m done with my fear of flying! :)

    I hope that people who is scared of flying would read this and if they haven’t tried homeopathy yet, will do. Magic for me.

  54. I’m scared of flying since I had an incident, few years ago. We were flying to Frankfurt and there’s was a huge turbulance and the plane was going down really fast, with no lights, people were shouting, the trolly broke…Imagine, since then I hate flying. And I have a lot of countries that I would like to visit but I can’t :(

  55. I havent been home for 3 and half years cuz I am scared of flying, moreso scared of flying with my son. =( I miss home and my family (Sister and Mother) but what can I do?

  56. thanks so much for this Jo! I am petrified of flying and nothing calms me down except for anxiety meds and booze. lethal combo but i can’t fly unless i knock myself down for the entire flight…good times…

  57. My boyfriend is a pilot instructor and flies teeny, tiny planes that seat two – sport cruisers. Nothing makes you get over a fear faster than jumping into one of those! I also find it really calming to listen to the normalcy of the air traffic controllers. Just another day at work!

  58. I’ really scared of flying and nothing really helps, so I’m just trying to live with it. I’m most scared doing takeoff and landing, and the unknown sounds while in the air! An air hostess told mw that most people are scared of what they don’t know, so if I just asked what it was whenever a high noice appeared, that should help. So I did. And actually it did. Know I know why airplanes makes certain noises and I’m not thinking we’re about to crash anymore!!
    If that fails I’m always flying with my boyfriend, so I’m always thinking “at least we die together” ;-)

    Sorry for my english, I’m from Denmark. Really quick I just wan’t to say, I love your blog!

  59. How timely! I’m flying to MA in a few weeks and last time my husband I flew we were on the flight from hell.

    As lovely as these ideas are – I plan to pop a Xanax and have a few pre-flight cocktails. Better for everyone ;)

  60. I never used to be so scared of flying. But each time I fly it gets worse! The last time I flew by myself to meet my partner and family for Christmas, I burst into tears walking towards the plane! Then on the plane a lady sitting next to me kept asking if I was ok, because I was obviously looking nervous and hyperventilating or something. haha. RIDICULOUS!
    I don’t ever want to let it stop me from taking a trip.

  61. YES to the poster that said she never flies through Denver anymore! I am terrified of flying and had a layover there last summer from PDX. Well there was a bad storm, so my very large jet had to make an emergency landing at a small military airport outside of Cheyenne, WY. Well it was such an unusual occurrence that it drew a large crowd to the airport, even as we sat there for several hours. I thought I’d never see home again as my plane struggled to lift off that short runway to Denver!
    My doctor prescribed me a laughable 0.25 mg of Xanax, and I’m a small woman; it didn’t phase me whatsoever. The “best” thing to work so far is satellite tv on JetBlue to distract me. But no matter what, when that turbulence starts, I can barely function and want to crawl out of my skin and run!

  62. My mom likes to tell/tease me that I’m not afraid of flying – I’m afraid of FALLING.

    I don’t love flying, but I tell myself that travel is enriching, and it is safe….but every time I cross the threshold into an airplane, I think “ok. well. here goes.”

  63. After MH370, I am scared of flying. Maybe because it happened where I lived. Freaked out at the slightest turbulence.

  64. I do SOOOO much better if I don’t fly with my husband! Seems he’s just as fearful, if not more, of flying, but I never knew that until I looked at him one day, mid-flight, and asked him if the crazy, scary sounds coming from the plain were normal. He was utterly panic-stricken and staring straight ahead, frozen. Yeah, NO help! And now, I’ve realized that for whatever reason, I just feel calmer when he’s not with me. Sure, we’re likely feeding off of each others’ fear together when we fly, but subconsciously, when I’m alone, I think I feel better knowing only one of us is at risk in the air while the other parent is alive on the ground for our kids. Yeah, not too helpful, huh? Plus, I tell myself, it’s completely out of my hands. I can’t control the plane.

  65. I’m terrified of flying, but fly quite often. It keeps getting worse as I get older, though. I was flying home to the US from Africa the day after MH370 disappeared. For some DUMB reason, I spent two hours reading everything I could find about the flight while waiting to board my flight to NYC. I was a nervous wreck! As soon as the pilot said “cabin door secure” after we boarded, I had a complete panic attack. I had never experienced one before! I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like I was trapped. All I could think about was that I was stuck and felt like I needed to get out. I just kept telling myself “you HAVE to stay on this flight to get home. You can’t get home without flying there.” I was traveling alone, so in order to get back to my husband, I had to just buckle in and deal with it for 12 hours! I haven’t flown since then, though, and am scared that it’ll happen again on my next flight. My dad and bother are pilots and have explained over and over that flying is safe and easy, but it doesn’t matter. Like someone said, phobias are totally illogical!

  66. I am terrified of flying. So terrified that I have NEVER flown! I also cannot go near airports and duck when planes are overhead! It wasn’t until I moved out of NY that I realized how often I was doing that! There is always a fairly low flying plane overhead if you live on Long Island. I’ve often thought about flying – even if it’s just to avoid the long LONG drive down to Florida to visit my mom. But when I sit down and try to imagine it, try to mentally walk myself through the experience, I end up having a panic attack. Thanks for writing so honestly about fear! :-)

  67. YES so scared of flying, but i never let it stop me from traveling! My last big flight was to Italy and when I found out my seat was not next to my boyfriend’s on the plane I had a panic attack during take off and cried for about half an hour. Once i get settled up in the air I can calm down, as long as there is no turbulence. Thanks for the tips, I will try these next time I fly!

  68. Thank you for this, flying tomorrow morning! Makes me nervous so I will keep these in mind! Xoxo

  69. I was scared of flying for as long as I can remember. I decided I was tired of being scared…so I started learning to fly and am now a student pilot! I seriously recommend it for nervous flyers. A little information and experience can change your whole perspective. Flying is one of my favorite things to do now, sans the airport schlep of course ;)

  70. This is weird, but I know that the only bad things that happen are the ones that you don’t anticipate. So when the plane takes off I spend five minutes imagining all of the horrible ways that the plane could crash and we could die. Then, feeling safe in the knowledge that they will never happen (because I anticipated them) I am able to relax and feel fine for the rest of the trip. It sounds sooo insane, but it works for me hahah.

  71. Ugh, I’ve been flying since I was a kid, and alone since the age of 5. I never used to be afraid of flying (I was mostly just INCREDIBLY bored). I even used to think turbulence was fun! Then I had a pretty scary flight back into NYC during a blizzard with a lot of turbulence and sudden drops and I really felt like “this is it.” I saw people around me panicking. I’ve been an anxious flyer ever since, I guess I feel a lot more aware of my mortality now! Honestly, the only thing that seems to help is getting wasted ;).

  72. I actually really enjoy flying. Being up in the air feels simultaneously safe and thrilling to me. I also like to build little soothing routines around travel: gum, my magazine, ordering the same beverage every time. It’s soothing.

  73. Wow! Thank you so much for this!! I have such fear of flying it’s ridiculous. But thank you, thank you.

  74. I was terrified of flying and did all of these things. But being honest, nothing helped till I tried Klonopin. Medication can work wonders! I am not perfect, but I can be so much calmer on flights now–which is important as I fly often for work.

  75. Thank you for this post! Like many other commenters, I loved flying during my childhood and teens yet developed the fear of flying in my 20s (including a rather embarrassing pre-takeoff meltdown at one point). Some things that have helped me tremendously:

    (1) Xanax – and being forgiving of myself for having to take it. It sometimes makes me feel like a failure to admit I need it, but I do.

    (2) Hypnotherapy was a lifesaver in terms of my physical responses – no matter how much I could calm my mind, my body would still react to the fear with stomach pains, muscle spasms, etc. Hypno was a huge help for this.

    (3) Someone taught me a great analogy – if you’re sitting comfortably in your living room and your friend surprises you by opening the door and yelling “Boo!”, you scream and are terrified, even if for a split second.

    But the thing to remember is that the fear in that situation is not at all proportional to the actual threat! Same with flying. Don’t let your fear be an indicator of the actual threat, which when you’re flying is minuscule.

  76. My fear of flying is only because of not having control over everyone else on the flight. It’s crazy, and makes me super stressed. I am so afraid of feeling ill on a plane or someone else getting ill! Thank you sooooo much for the reminders! I did #8 during a time I was very very anxious on a flight, and it was the best meditation.

  77. I’m terrified of flying. Just today we were planning our summer trip and I almost suggested changing so I don’t have to fly. But I do disagree with it being easy. My dad is a commercial pilot and does not find it easy.

  78. I don’t love flying so my trick is to fall asleep before the plane ever takes off! I am usually asleep within 10 minutes of boarding the plane, and depending on the flight time, I don’t wake up until we touch down again :)

  79. These are good tips! Flight attendants have told me the bumps are like driving down a dirt road… they aren’t going to cause a crash!

  80. I’m not afraid of flying as I always choose flying over any other method of transportation (mainly because it is the fastest way to get anywhere) but I find that the more I fly the less I like it.

    I think that’s because the more I flight the more experiences I have with turbulence, passengers who panic during flights and so on.

    I confess I do get a little nervous during turbulences (everyone does I guess) and every time the planes takes off or lands but it is not that I’m scared I’m just a bit unconfortable.

    Maybe I’m afraid of flying? I don’t know!

  81. I get a little nervous in the air, but watching the flight attendants has definitely helped me. If they’re not worried, it must be normal.

    I think my fear comes from feeling out of control. I try to remind myself that the pilots and flight crew are experts and even if I’m not in control, they are – and they’re more qualified to be in control than I am. Usually calms me down a bit

  82. I grew up in Hawaii so I had to get on a plane to get anywhere! Two things have helped me get over my anxious thoughts:

    1) My commerical pilot friend has said, “We wnt to get back to our families as much as you do. We will do everything we can to do that.” Somehow that was comforting…

    2) I’ve become more present. Some of the flights over the Pacific are really, really bumpy but I just figure this is my time to live and I should live it to the fullest that I can. If I’m anxious about it, I dont leave myself open for all the wonderful things that could come my way. Live in the moment.

  83. I’m not afraid of flying just afraid of crashing. That being said I CANT STAND TURBULENCE, I completely flip when that happens. To calm down I look at other people who seem to be chill and that helps put things in perspective.

  84. I am notorious amongst my family and friends for my fear of flying, and after moving to the midwest for a job now have to fly more frequently for visits back to the east coast. I’ve tried EVERYTHING, and I will say that it gets a teensie bit easier every time. But here are some tricks little tricks that have proved useful to me!:

    1. Like one previous commenter, I’ve found wine works better than prescription drugs. Best consumed on the flight–the high altitudes make it go straight to your head!
    2. Take a red-eye. When I catch a flight in the afternoon, I’ve usually been stressing out about it the whole day. A 6am lift-off leaves less of a window for that, and I’m still pretty sleepy which helps.
    3. Watch a comedy on board. I usually start it while I’m waiting to board, so I’m already invested in the plot by the time I start it back up on the plane. Putting on the closed captions also adds a subtle layer of concentration that helps me forget where I am. Woody Allen always does the trick for me, but if you think he’s a jerkstore these days, Mel Brooks is another good one!
    4. Although it seems counterintuitive, looking out the window also helps me. Many of us fear the loss of control, and my theory is that looking out the window adds some degree of ownership over the situation. You can see where you are and where you’re headed, and I’ve found it works the best when landing.
    5. Fear of Flying School podcast is GREAT, and each episode addresses a different aspect of our fear. I recommend listening the night before, on the way to the airport, or in the waiting area. The episode “how one therapist treats people…” reaaaally helped me immensely.
    6. Many commercial airlines offer free wifi. Set a texting date for your flight with a friend or loved one who can reassure you or at the very least, distract you by making you laugh (on the inside). I have an amazing sister who has saved me from tears more than once!

  85. This is such a great resource. For me, I’m a bit afraid of any extreme heights — I’ve had so many dreams where I’m falling off a building, it’s ridiculous. Great guide, thanks!

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  87. One thing that I always think about during turbulence is that it’s just like going down a bumpy dirt road in a truck–totally normal and not-scary.

  88. I am not scared of the flight, but curiously enough my stomach will be a mess the day before I fly…I do however have freeway phobias and live in LA so go figure…

  89. I flew all the time as a child and was never scared, but somehow I developed a fear of flying in my late-teens and early 20s. I haven’t flown for 18 months, but have a international flight next week so this is perfect. One of my favorite pieces of advice was to look at the departures and arrivals signs -there are SOOO many flights taking off and arriving safely – and that chart only lists the ones connected to that airport. For some reasons, that sign really helps to put things in perspective and realize how safe flying is. That, and I always do a short, free online fear of flying course before we go. And alcohol!

  90. This could not have come at a better time- yesterday I was on a very turbulent flight and felt extremely nervous the whole time. I kept visualizing getting off the plane and what I would do when I landed. A glass of wine would have worked in the past, but since I’m breastfeeding, I need to find other methods to help calm my nerves.

    I only get nervous during bad turbulence, the kind where the seatbelt sign remains on during the whole flight and even the calm looking passengers turn towards the windows to see what’s going on. On one flight I was listening to Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die and I quickly changed it when the plane jumped a little. To be honest, my fear of flying only started after 9/11. It’s really a waste to worry about things you can’t control, so I’d like to become a more confident flyer.

  91. I abhor flying, and always drink at least one strong beer or drink, often more than one, pre-flight. Oddly that has been more calming than prescription meds. Ive heard pretending not to be afraid/convincing yourself you’re a good flyer works for some. Not for me!

  92. Great post!! I am scared of take-off and landing… and turbulence… and anything that isn’t basically smooth flying :P I usually have a couple of glasses of wine & it usually helps a little. I like to distract myself by reading a good book or watching a film too! x

    Alex | PinkElephantBlog

  93. I hate flying. I do it a number of times a year, but a few bad flights have made me more nervous, not better. So I do sit toward the front of the plane, take a Xanax, have a glass of wine, etc. I’ve also noticed lately that the warnings they give over the PA are worse than the actual turbulence…by the time they mention it, it is usually dying down.
    Oh, and I never fly through Denver anymore, especially not in the summer.

  94. I used to love it as a child! I’ve become a little more fearful as an adult. Mainly, I just hate turbulence–I always think the end is near. Music and meditation help calm me, or some silly, distracting phone or word game. Also, flying with calm companions. :)

  95. this makes me think of the movie French Kiss. I am anxious about how anxious I would get about flying… if that makes sense. I was more worried about the anxiety than the actual flight. As a college kid I was too afraid to ask my doctors for anxiety medication for when I flew back and forth from NYC to home, but got some for my honeymoon and couldn’t believe how much better it made the experience. Now that I have a few medicated, non-anxious flights under my belt, and have sort of un-learned the behavior, I can Actually (almost) enjoy the flight!

  96. There’s a natural supplement called CALM that is amazing. I like to mix it with warm water and sip it like tea. The warmth and the magnesium immediately relaxes me. I recommend it for any nervous travelers, or even for people who have trouble falling asleep at night!

  97. SUDOKU all the way! I once had an off duty Air Force pilot next to me for a 3 hour flight. He explain every single movement and noise the plane made in a calm and collected way. I try to imagine that conversation each time I fly now.

  98. I can be a bit of a nervous flyer. Whenever I’m feeling a bit anxious or scared of turbulence or a dip the plane takes, I look around at the other passengers and flight attendants. It’s hard to feel nervous or jittery when you look around and see all the people going about their plane business, reading and chatting like it’s no big deal. I think to myself, “if that dude over there isn’t scared, I shouldn’t be scared either.” Works for me, anyways!

  99. The funny thing for me about flying is that the return trip home is about 10 times worse than the one out. I don’t have my vacation to look forward to, all I want to do is get home and see my babies, spouse, dog, etc AND I think about what they would do without me…it’s horribly illogical. I am a mathematician and the stats do nothing to calm me. I just distract myself as best I can. I really like those YES and KNOW books…reminds me of childhood and fun enough to distract myself. Or I treat myself to a magazine I like, but don’t have a subscription for.

  100. #9 is super helpful in a lot of scary situations! Also the overcoming your fear of flights classes remind me of Meg Ryan in the movie French Kiss.

  101. I’m a longtime reader, but first time commenter. I just want to say that you for being open with your own anxieties – I hate elevators too! But I’m particularly glad you posted this article… I’ve been struggle a lot recently with more and more anixety everytime I fly – Thank you!!

  102. I didn’t used to be scared of flying when I was younger. Now that I’m in my 30s for some reason, I think I’ve grown up a little and feel like I’ve invested in more (people, career, etc) — and losing it would be terrible! I’ve also taken red eye flights from KL on Malaysia Airlines and this missing plane hits scarily close to home. I didn’t used to be scared, but now I am. No amount of logical reasoning helps after the “safest” plane out there with hundreds of people suddenly goes missing!

  103. totally scared! and don’t fly often because of it :( LA to SF was the last time, I squeezed my husbands arm so tight and we are only at altitude for 20 minutes, ha!

  104. I didn’t used to be scared of flying at all (and I’ve been flying since I was a kid), but then I started reading accounts of accidents (Tenerife, Air France over the Pacific, EgyptAir, and now MH370…). Why, why do I do this to myself. I’m not scared enough now to avoid flying completely, but I find myself a bit more on edge. I just try to remind myself of the millions of flights that take off daily around the world, and buy something fun to read on the flight!

  105. S says...

    Do you remember that wonderful scene in French Kiss where Meg Ryan conquers her fear of flying to confront her cheating fiance in France? This post reminds me how much I love Meg Ryan in that movie.

  106. I’m not scared of flying but I get incredibly motion sick. I end up getting anxious about feeling sick during the flight, if that makes any sense.

  107. “In my mind I KNOW that I’m more likely to die on the way to the airport than on a flight… but that makes no difference. Phobias are not logical.”

    ^^ This. I haven’t flown in 3 years but will be flying this summer, so I was glad to see this post. Thinking about trying some meds this time around

  108. I think it helps to actually know how the physics of flight really work. When you don’t understand how something works it’s easy to fear it. It’s not magic! It’s relatively simple science. You can do pretty easy demonstrations about lift in your own kitchen. When you understand the properties it helps a lot.

  109. I hate to fly but realize that if I want to go the place I want to go, I have to. So… I have found that my Bose headphones really help. The noise reduction does a lot to keep me sane on flights. But crosswords and my iPod also help.

  110. Thanks, this is perfect timing! I’m a very nervous flyer, not always — I used to be terrified of escalators as a child. I would scream bloody murder anytime my mom tried to make me use one. Sometimes when we’re shopping together now I feel she still holds her breath until we’ve gotten off. Haha.

  111. Thank you for sharing this – I am very scared of flying – I absolutely hate it. Usually a large gin and tonic is my go-to before a flight!

    Beccy // Bluebell & Bumpkin

  112. I used to get really panicky with flying and even took medication to help for awhile. A trick I learned though, is to not freak out. Why? Because no one else is. I try to watch the flight attendants. If they are not freaking out, I have no need to. I was always nervous with turbulence, but I’ve learned, it happens. It’s not a big deal. Why? Because of how flight attendants react (or don’t) to it. It helps me to stay calm and remember, it happens all the time, it will be ok.

  113. Thanks for this list! I absolutely love flying, but my dear mom hates it so much. She backs out of great opportunities because flying is involved, even though she knows her fear is unreasonable. Her coping method; Xanax and sleep! I will pass this along, anything helps!

  114. Yeah, I am scared of flying. I do it a few times a year, but that first take-off of a trip I am a basket case. Honestly, I have my doctor prescribe Ativan. It takes the edge off. It’s not a perfect fix, but it does help a bit. That’s the thing about phobias. In my mind I KNOW that I’m more likely to die on the way to the airport than on a flight… but that makes no difference. Phobias are not logical.