I still remember my first time flying like it was yesterday. I had several questions rushing through my head. What would it be like? Does it hurt when your ears pop? Is there a monster hiding on the plane that will rip it apart like in The Twilight Zone?
Little did I know, but flying on an airplane is incredibly commonplace. Did you know that more than 1.5 million people fly by air per day? When you do the math, it equals more than 547 million people flying per year! In terms of accidents, the odds of you being involved in a fatal airline accident are 1 in 4.7 million. In other words, you're more likely to be killed by lightning than an airline.
With that being said, here are several tips to help you, or anyone you know, deal with their fear of flying.
Understand What You're Getting Yourself Into
As I mentioned before, Hollywood has fabricated many misconceptions about flying for the sake of entertainment. In fact, they have made millions of dollars from creating sensationalized versions of aircraft incidents.
As you prepare for your first trip, I would definitely venture away from any movie that could set off an emotional trigger on a plane. I can almost certainly assure you that there will be no snakes on your plane.
With that being said, it is important that you at least do some minimal research about the mechanics of airplanes. There are many websites out there that simplify the dynamics of an airline, as well as the nuances of flight.
As you do research, you'll realize that airplanes are incredibly complex instruments, and they are designed to be safe and reliable. In fact, take a look at how detailed FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) rules and regulations are, which ensures that all aircraft and their equipment comply with designs and manufactures under FAA systems.
Make Sure You're Relaxed
One of the worst things you can do on a plane is being overly anxious. One tried-and-true trick that can be useful is using the repetition of counting. Whether it is counting repeatedly from '1-to-10' and back, this cathartic exercise can help relieve your anxiety and relax your fears about flying. Luckily for you, there are flight attendants who can also make sure you're as comfortable as possible. Nonetheless, there are several other things you can bring:
- Sleep-aids (pillow, blanket, sleeping tablet)
- Music/MP3 player
All of these supports are examples of items that you can bring with you as a distraction mechanism. The gum, for example, will help you with your ears "popping," or the slight discomfort you feel in your ears as the altitude increases.
A generic, over-the-counter sleeping aid may also help by allowing you to rest or sleep through the trip. I would, however, consult a physician before taking any sleeping aids.
Don't Freak Out
If you don't want to sleep, there are several parts of flying that can be worrisome to first-time travelers. The most common is turbulence, which has been known to strike fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned travelers. Briefly, turbulence can be characterized as,"random, chaotic motion of air, caused by changes in air currents," which is usually felt as bumpiness or a sudden jolt.
First, it is important to understand that turbulence is an incredibly common occurrence in the air. Second, it is important to also note that it is not only unbelievably rare to encounter severe turbulence, but even more unlikely that the turbulence causes damage to the aircraft. In the rare case that you do experience turbulence, remember that airplanes are built to withstand an incredible amount of pressure, so it is important to try your best to relax.
At this point, you should feel adequately prepared to conquer your fear of flying. Bon Voyage!