Unpacked: Fear of Flying


Most people are afraid of something. Some people are afraid of flying. It’s one of those fears that might show up on Family Feud’s short list along with fear enclosed spaces, clowns or snakes. Some folks say there’s a scientific reason why people fear spiders or snakes – in fact, there may have been an evolutionary aversion to animals that were once our predators. You know, back when we lived in the great outdoors and didn’t enjoy modern comforts like a roof over our heads, flat screen televisions and dead bolt locks to keep those pesky snakes out.

A fear of flying, also known as aerophobia, cannot easily be explained by evolution. After all, planes didn’t exist a couple of centuries ago, let alone 10,000 years ago. This fear may be caused by any number of other things including claustrophobia, a fear of not being in control, a fear of turbulence, among other things. It’s not unwarranted to have a healthy skepticism about a giant hunk of metal that flies at 500 miles per hour 30,000 feet up in the sky, but there’s also plenty to not be scared of when it comes to air travel.

Turbulence, for instance, often feels frightening when you’re experiencing it, but is the equivalent of driving a truck down a rocky road. Learn more about turbulence in a previous Unpacked column. Some people are afraid of flying because you’re so close to the weather and are worried about lightning or thunderstorms, but planes are designed to handle what they fly through and systems are in place to determine what to fly through and what to sit out or fly around.

Safety is our number one priority and something we take very seriously. We don’t take for granted that air travel is statistically a safer form of transportation than most others. Our planes and navigational technology are built with redundancies and our crewmembers are thoroughly trained in the event of irregular operations.

So fear not frightened flyers! Don’t let your anxieties prevent you from seeing friends and family and from experiencing some of the most beautiful places on the planet. See below for some tips to help smooth out your travel woes:

1. Educate! The more you can learn about how planes work and how they’re designed to fly the skies, the less you’ll have to fear.

2. Meet your crew: Introduce yourself to the inflight crewmembers when you board the plane and feel free to ask questions. If time allows, you might even get to meet and chat with the pilot.

3. Breathe! Sometimes fears remain even when logic tells us they shouldn’t because of old habits. Take some deep breaths when you feel that anxiety rising and focus on creating new, positive thoughts to quiet the old ones.

Check out our previous editions Unpacked and stay tuned for the next up!