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Have a safe flight

air travel still the safest mode of transportation
air travel still the safest mode of transportation
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For the past two weeks nearly everyone around the globe has been spellbound by a single bizzare mystery - an airliner that seems to have evaporated from existence. The news media has presented every so called "expert" who has offered every imaginable scenario ranging from the nonsensical to the downright impossible. And while 25 nations assume a frenzied search that has thus far turned up nothing, some folks are finding that their pteromerhanophobia, otherwise known as a fear of flying, seems to be kicking back in.

The fear of flying is one of the most rational fears a person can have. After all, air travel does require one to remain suspended in the air in a metal tube for hours, and despite the logical physics that explain that phenomena, the notion still feels abnormal to many. Statistics vary, but it’s been estimated that about 40% of people have some level of anxiety about flying. These are people who get a bit nervous during turbulence and who may get a pre-flight drink to calm their nerves, but they still fly. On the other hand, it's estimated that about 6.5% of people experience such a profound fear that it prevents them from flying altogether.

The range and specifics of flight anxieties vary, however these appear to be among the most common:

  • bad weather
  • aircraft engine failure
  • fire on the plane during a flight
  • lack of visibility through the clouds
  • heights
  • turbulence
  • unfamiliar crowds
  • takeoffs
  • germs onboard the aircraft
  • faulty landings
  • nausea
  • flying over water
  • doors opening in mid-air
  • pilot error
  • being out of control
  • crashing
  • trusting airline industry safety standards
  • mechanics' errors

Budget Travel Magazine offers the following tips to help alleviate the fear of flying:

Give your phobia a name

Figuring out what triggers your fear in the first place is an important step toward conquering flight anxiety. Different aspects of flying can trigger different fears depending on the person—for instance, one person may be afraid of turbulence and feel nervous during a perfectly normal takeoff, while an individual with germaphobic tendencies may be more concerned about the spread of germs in a confined space. It helps to recognize that your phobia is irrational, but you need to be able to pinpoint the cause of your fear before you can take that next step.

Familiarize yourself with airplane noises

You're about to land and the plane is rattling like both of its wheels are about to fall off—is it time to panic? No, the carry-on luggage and the seat-back tables are shifting slightly—just like they do every time the plane takes off and lands. Sometimes all it takes to combat anxiety is a little information.

Check the turbulence forecast

While turbulence is a perfectly normal part of flying—it happens when the plane encounters normal weather patterns like air currents or clouds—the idea of shaking while in the air can be very unsettling. The more you know about what causes that shaky feeling and how much of it you can expect while you're airborne, the less you'll be afraid of it.

Bring a photo of your destination

Visualizing your destination and imagining yourself there can be a powerful antidote to stress—and can help keep you focused on the prize at the end of the journey. The idea is to take your mind off the little things that make you nervous about flying and focus on the positive aspects of your journey.

Skip the coffee—and the wine

Avoid both caffeine and alcohol, as they can leave you feeling more dehydrated during the flight. Nervous fliers should avoid a seemingly comforting pre-flight alcoholic beverage, since alcohol can also make it harder for your body to adjust to being airborne and bring on a nasty bout of jet lag. Instead, opt for water and a light meal pre-flight, or carry along a light snack like carrot sticks, nuts, or an apple to keep you feeling nourished.

Bring a book you've already started or tune into a television series you already know

In a nutshell—distraction works. One of the best ways to distract yourself during a flight is to bring a book that you've already started and are deeply engrossed in or a season of your favorite television show. Farchione says if people associate televisions with being safe at home, and there's a television on the plane, they will feel similar familiar feelings of comfort.

Share your secret with the flight attendants

It's a good idea to let others know you're not too keen on flying—you may be able to speak to the pilot briefly while you board the plane or receive extra attention from flight attendants during the flight. Sometimes just knowing that others are available to help you in case your anxiety surfaces is enough to help keep that anxiety in check.

Embrace safety information

Your plane is not going to crash (and whatever you do, do NOT start envisioning disaster scenarios). But knowing that you're prepared for anything can be empowering. Watch an airline safety video while you're still in the comfort of your home so that you can "master" the procedure in your head.

Have one or two relaxation remedies handy—but use them only as a last resort.

If you're among the millions who are affected with flight anxiety, monitor your media intake, particularly now as the details about Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 are running rampant. Avoid news coverage of plane crashes or other scary media images and by all means, airplane disaster movies. Remember that most flights arrive safely, but only the problem flights make the evening news.

For more helpful resources to aid in your flight anxiety, visit http://www.fearofflying.com.