Overcoming The Fear Of Flying

For many of us flying is a necessity, a way to travel for business or for pleasure, for some it is even a delight, they enjoy the excitement of the whole experience, however, for many people a fear of flying fills them with dread and anxiety. A fear of flying is a common fear these days, and I have to admit it affects me too, but I try not to let it stop me travelling.

For some people, it may not stop them travelling but their fear of flying can make them tearful, upset and anxious, maybe even have panic attacks. However, for some people, it can get to the extent that it makes them avoid planes or travelling. If you are affected, here are some tips on how to overcome your fear of flying. 

Why are you afraid?

A fear of flying or aviophobia affects between approximately 3 and 6 per cent of the population at any time and there are usually a number of factors involved in someone being scared to fly.

A lack of control is one aspect. In a plane, you are not in control, and when the doors shut you can't get out, which makes it claustrophobic for some. That is one reason why people hate flying. In fact, this is why I hate it myself!

Also with 24-hour news and media these days we see more plane crashes than ever before reported. However, flying is so much safer than driving, with many research articles pointing this out, and you are actually 15 times more likely to be hit by lightning than be involved in a plane crash. 

Another reason you may hate flying is if you do not like heights. In some respect, this is a natural fear, a 'fight or flight response' to keep you safe. However, if it is affecting your ability to take a flight then this needs to be looked at further. 

Self-help tips

1. Plan everything in advance

Plan everything in advance so you feel you are in control. If you live a distance from the airport, consider booking an airport hotel the night before, this will avoid any traffic hold-ups on the day and give you less potential for being stressed.  Booking an airport lounge is also a relaxing way to start a trip, as the lounge will generally provide food and drinks as well as free Wi-Fi in a relaxing comfortable area, away from the general bustle of an airport.

2. Book an upgraded seat

An aisle seat will give you more of a feeling of space and stop you feeling hemmed in. I always do this or upgrade my seat to exit row, premium or if its a special occasion, business class. The extra space of these seats cannot be beaten and in my experience definitely helps with claustrophobia. 

3. Keep yourself busy

I like to check out the plane beforehand to see if there is an entertainment system, with TV, films and music to keep me occupied. On short-haul planes, this is less likely so I make sure I have films and music downloaded on my laptop beforehand. I also take work with me to do on the plane as well.  A point of note, try to avoid programmes on plane crashes and media coverage of such things especially in the run-up to a flight. I must admit I was shocked that one well-known airline had the film Flight that starts with a plane crash on their entertainment system last year!

4. Use relaxing music 

Make a playlist of relaxing music and download it prior to the flight so you can listen to it whilst you are on the plane. 

5. Practise relaxation techniques

Before you get on the plane, research relaxation techniques. Even simple breathing exercises can help if you feel panicky. You can download audio or video content to help with relaxation techniques.

6. Avoid caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant so avoid caffeine as it can make you jittery. Instead, drink soft drinks that aren't carbonated as fizzy drinks may make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. 

7. Adjust air vents

Turn on the air vents as soon as you get on the plane. I also like to take a hand-held fan in case it gets warm. Anecdotal evidence and personal experience does suggest that having cool air on your face makes you feel anxious. Try it, and let me know what you think.

8. Beware of alcohol 

Alcohol can take the edge off the fear for some but be careful not to drink too much, and especially be careful if you are mixing alcohol with medication, such as travel sickness tablets or anxiolytic mediation as this can enhance the sedative effect. Alcohol can also make you dehydrated so be sure to drink plenty of water during a flight. 

9. Be careful with medication 

If you find your fear is getting worse, visit your Dr, they can help refer you for counselling (more of that later) and prescribe medication for short-term use, usually 6 or 8 tablets of Diazepam or other similar medication. Some people do not like the effect that anxiolytic medication has on them, so it is useful to try out a tablet before you go if you have never tried them before. 

10. Positive thinking

It's always good to focus on the destination you are going to and visualise yourself there perhaps lying on the beach or relaxing with a glass of wine over a meal in your destination. 

Do you need counselling? 

If you feel that your fear is getting out of control consider counselling. Counselling can be in person with a trained counsellor or online from a site that uses accreditated and trained counsellors like Better Help Often, a fear of flying starts after a big life event. Counselling can help get to the route of the fear of flying and the triggers to your anxiety. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is one such technique they use to help you conquer your fear for example.

What about fear of flying courses?

Fear of flying courses are worth considering especially if your fear is severe. Often these involve an educational session about how a plane works, what the noises mean and how safe flying is, with relaxation techniques and support from airline staff.  British Airways run a Flying With Confidence course, and Virgin Atlantic run a  Flying Without Fear course too. Many people have been helped with these courses every year and the group setting can help you feel less isolated as other people feel the same as you. 

Pin for later

As you can see there are a number of things you can do it help you overcome your fear of flying. I hope this article has been useful to you.

For more information check out this post on how you can overcome your fear of flying from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

*Collaborative post


  1. These are really helpful! My friend has a big fear of flying, so I will point her in the direction of this blog post in the hope that it helps her :)

  2. Great tips. I don't mind flying but my husband isn't a fan so will show him these tips!

  3. I have a fear of heights but I love traveling more so even though i get anxious on take off and landing am ok the rest of the flight. Lovely tips

  4. I absolutely hate flying, despite the fact that we fly almost every month - in fact, we'll be on a flight this time tomorrow! These are some great tips, especially the relaxing music, which makes a huge difference to me. It's definitely not a nice fear to have, but there are things you can do to keep it under control.

    1. I fly all the time too. I am glad relaxing music helps you.

  5. I think we all have a little bit of fear when flying - as you say it's out of our control once the doors close. It's especially worse if your children aren't travelling with you (or pets!) I do plan ahead, check out the films if there's an entertainment system, make sure we're sitting together if in a group ... little things to make it less stressful

  6. I can see why people develop this fear and these sound like excellent tips.

  7. I have to admit I love flying but can understand why some people are scared of it - great tips for those that suffer though