Things I’ve learned from flying long-haul with a fear of flying

Make travel memories

I have flown to New Zealand from London three times this year, which while amazing & lucky that I got to see my family so often, is also marred by the fact that I am terrified of flying. Being trapped in a fiery tin can of death for about a week of my life this year has taught me a few things:

 

Crying on a stranger is not as awkward as you think its going to be.

Old men are the best because nine times out of ten they will offer you their tie or handkerchief to mop up your tears. Drunk youths are a good option too, they will regale you with a story of the time that their mate Gary forgot to pack any clothes on his trip to Magaluf and spent the entire week in the same outfit. Lol through the terror.

A double vodka is always a good idea

Yes the person next to you will think you are an alcoholic, but the besmirching of your fine reputation is totally worth it if it dulls the terror a little during takeoff. Most airlines will also offer something unique on long haul flights (Qantas with gingerbeer, Singapore Airlines with the Singapore Sling) and if its not a cocktail already adding vodka to it will really create something special.

A pilot making a sudden left hand turn is never good

Fuck you pilots.

Never watch action movies while in the air

As much as you want to watch Mad Max because you hear its actually a feminist fun fest DON’T DO IT. The soundtrack of an action movie along with the crash, bang, pow will keep you on the edge of your seat – not good when the terror is already bubbling just beneath the surface. Rent the movie when you are firmly on terra firma and stick with a rom com, Disney or Gilmore Girls while you are at 37,000ft.

I will always be calmer if one of the flight attendants has a moustache

I have no idea why, but having an older guy with a moustache hanging around the cabin really puts my fears at rest. Maybe a part of my brain thinks it will be something to hold on to while we all plummet to our dooms.

The new A380s are amazing

These planes are a totally game changer. The turbulence is less sharp and more swaying, it really takes the ‘IMABOUTTODIE’ factor down to about an 8/10. I would pay extra to fly with an airline that has them, and coming from a girl that few China Southern for the price that is saying something.

Children are terrifying

I could not care less about your child crying during takeoff, that’s what headphones and Taylor Swift on repeat are for. However if your child suddenly darts to the bulk head door and starts playing with all the levers I will kill them.

My super power is making turbulence start as soon as I a) get given a hot drink or b) go to the bathroom

Every. Single. Time.

Audiobooks are a game changer

Sometimes music just can’t quite drown out the feeling that at any moment a missile that the Russians have sold to someone might shoot you down, audio books are the answer. Choose an author that you have read before, make sure that the narrators voice is soothing and away you go. It will be interesting enough to focus on during turbulence but soothing enough to lull you to sleep if possible. I have about 20 different Terry Pratchett books on my iPod and I am saving up for Harry Potter – because anything narrated by Stephen Fry is literally the dream.

Reading a book about an escape from North Korea works pretty well too

On my most recent flight I read this incredible book by Yeonmi Park, about her life in and escape from North Korea. Reading about such a horrific tale (written so well) really puts this temporary fear into perspective.

Its always worth the terror to get to the destination

I got to hug my cats at the end of the flight. Totally 100% worth it. Oh and my family, they are great too.

Planes don’t always crash

Every single plane I have got on to in the last few years I knew in my heart of hearts that it would crash and we would all die in a horrific flamey way. Turns out that even though I was utterly convinced it would happen…it didn’t.

8 Comments

  1. November 19, 2015 / 11:20 am

    haha oh so many truths! The more often I fly in a year the less I’m scared, but if it’s been 4-6 months or even gasp a year, then I have some fear and lately I’ve definitely had some. I think about the poor people who died in crashes and they never thought it could happen to them and boom it happened and its irreversible. I always think it’s that time for me….it’s awful….but good tricks! I think watching a comedy or lulling to sleep is the best distraction.

  2. November 19, 2015 / 5:16 pm

    If a double vodka does the job, that’s great. If you need more, I’m sure I can help. I’ve specialized in flight phobia for thirty-five years (I’m retired captain and licensed therapist) and recently put everything I’ve learned through working with 10,000 clients into a book, “SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying” named as Amazon Editors’ Favorite 2014 Book (read the reader reviews and you’ll see why). Also, I have a free app at http://www.fearofflying.com/app which measures the g-forces when you are in turbulence and proves the plane is doing just fine.

  3. November 19, 2015 / 8:16 pm

    ahaha I’m glad im not the only one who feels like this! I also hate flying and on each flight will reflect on my life and think ‘well at least if I die, I had an amazing life’…. then as soon as I get off the plan I think ‘ooohhh duty free!!’

  4. November 19, 2015 / 8:50 pm

    Hilarious! I thankfully don’t have much of an issue with fear of flying, it’s simply the discomfort factor … which gets worse with every flight I take, sigh. Glad you’ve found lots of ways to copy and make it better.

  5. November 21, 2015 / 2:03 pm

    HAHA – the moustache thing is brilliant! Brains are weird. I’ve never thought about audio books before so will give that a go next time I’m long haul!

  6. November 23, 2015 / 1:27 pm

    Haha, this is brilliant! As someone who is also a nervous flyer, I shall definitely look out for a man with a moustache on my next flight 😉

  7. November 23, 2015 / 2:07 pm

    Hahaha, love this. Flying totally freaks the hell out of me and you’ve nailed it here! I love older flight attendants too, definitely calming and reassuring.

    I was on an AirAsia flight last year and the young Malaysian girl flying alone next to me was so scared I held her hand, I felt stronger for her! I knew how she felt, poor kid.

    The destination is the only thing that gets me up there, if there is a plausible overland route then I take that in preference!

  8. March 8, 2016 / 3:36 pm

    As an “older guy” (with a moustache, I might add, although it comes with an attached beard) you are welcome to take me with you on your next trip to New Zealand, just to be on the safe side. However, given your super-power, this generous offer comes with a couple of conditions:

    1) No hot drinks for you!
    2) You’re staying in your seat for the entire flight!

    Deal?

    Brian.