Why are people afraid of airplanes

These 10 tips are effective against fear of flying

Palpitations, panic, clammy hands, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness: If you suffer from fear of flying, your autonomic nervous system is over-activated - and worried thoughts before the flight turn queasy feelings into a vicious circle. Where do the noises on the plane come from? Why does the machine wobble so? Was that turbulence?

Experts estimate that around 15 percent of all Germans suffer from fear of flying. An additional 20 percent feel at least uncomfortable on board - so the phenomenon is by no means an isolated case. Even flight attendants can be affected. Even if the nightmare of the impending plane crash rarely becomes a reality, because very few people have already gone through an uncomfortable situation such as multiple take-offs or sudden descents in turbulence.

Panic over memory of Germanwings crash

For most, however, the causes of panic when flying are rather diffuse: They are based on other fears such as claustrophobia or loss of control. The feeling of being at the mercy is often mentioned by those affected - sometimes linked to a specific fear, such as of a pilot like that of Germanwings. But if something else is decisive, only behavior therapy can help against fear of flying. Other tips can also help affected people overcome their fear. Basically, relaxation exercises help, alcohol does not.

Relaxation exercises instead of alcohol

Tranquilizers are not always necessary: ​​In order to get rid of flight-specific panic, experts do not recommend tablets, but rather to deal with both your fear and flying as a first step. So why am I scared? What exactly is fear? What's going on in my mind? How does an airplane work?

As much as the terrible tragedy surrounding the Germanwings flight may have repercussions, how likely is the risk of having an accident in the air? The fact is: even the worst turbulence, in which everything on board is mixed up, will not let an aircraft fall from the sky. And, according to Jörg Handwerg from the cockpit pilots' association: "On a jumbo, the wing tips can bend eight meters up or down without being damaged."

Better preparation with the right clothing

Because it is foreseeable that you will be tense during the flight, you should literally not add to the tension - and wear tight pants, tight collars or tight-fitting tops. Wrapped in a relaxed layer-on-layer look, it is easier for the body to relax during the flight. The onion look also allows you to customize your clothes depending on whether they are shivering or breaking out in a sweat. Clothing is one thing, knowledge is next. Many people fear flying because they don't know enough about it. Anyone who has learned that an aircraft does not fall from the sky even when all the engines fail, but can still glide around 200 kilometers, can look forward to the flight more relaxed.

Sometimes just thinking about your fears and having the courage to get on are enough to fly with a less uncomfortable feeling in the future. Then the body often switches to “I did it” mode on its own. Most of the time, however, more is needed. Specialized providers hold anti-fear of flying seminars, sometimes in cooperation with airlines.

In the two to three-day workshops, the participants learn how an airplane works, learn relaxation exercises and sometimes even train in a flight simulator or go on short trips together. The costs are steep at around 800 euros. An inexpensive alternative to seminars are specialist guides that you can order or borrow from the library.

  1. Awareness of the causes Question the causes of your fear of flying: Why do I have it? How does an airplane work? Get on board despite your fear.
  2. Choosing the right seat Anyone who suffers from fear of flying also often suffers from so-called claustrophobia (claustrophobia). It is therefore best to book a seat in the aisle. On the one hand, this makes you feel less constricted, and on the other hand, you don't have to look into the depths, which may increase your fears. Attention: Since many airlines now assign the seats to the passengers with the cheapest tariff and you cannot choose yourself, you have to book a more expensive tariff if necessary.
  3. Talking about your fear of flying Let the people next to you and the flight attendants know about your fear of flying. This is by no means embarrassing, because in reality many more people suffer from the queasy feeling than admit it. If you know about your fear of flying, you can calm or distract you. It often helps to have a brief, pleasant conversation with the fellow passenger about it: Perhaps he's not quite comfortable in the sky, too?
  4. Don't deny your fear, but don't get into it either. As with all anxiety disorders, you shouldn't struggle convulsively against your fear of flying. This usually has the opposite effect: Just like telling yourself to fall asleep in the case of insomnia. It is therefore better to accept your own fear. Conversely, you shouldn't get into it either. Mind games about possible flight disasters should be stopped as soon as they arise.
  5. Not on an empty stomach Even if you don't feel hungry when you think about the upcoming flight and your fear: Don't get on the plane with an empty stomach, but force yourself to eat something before departure. That doesn't have to (and shouldn't) be anything difficult. You should also drink enough before and during the flight. However, it is best to avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee or energy drinks, as well as alcohol.
  6. Always breathe deeply Pay attention to your breathing! Take a deep breath, then take a long breath. That too can protect against panic attacks. In addition, sit up straight on your seat with both feet on the floor.
  7. Distracting Yourself Easier said than done, but keep trying: pick up a book or magazine to distract yourself. Concentrate on the text you are reading and try not to think of anything else. Alternatively, you can play with a chain or ribbon that you wear around your wrist, for example. Sounds a little silly, but it can help.
  8. Taking medication Valerian drops or St. John's wort preparations are considered light remedies for anxiety. You can get this at the pharmacy. They can help at least with mild anxiety. If you really need tougher remedies like Valium that are not free from side effects, you have to see your doctor.
  9. Participate in the fear of flying seminar Many a person who suffered from severe fear of flying was able to overcome this by taking part in a fear of flying seminar. Many of the airlines offer such courses, but also the passenger center, for example. Pilots provide information about the background to flying and explain, for example, what it means when the aircraft wobbles or when "strange" noises can be heard. In addition, exercises are trained that can help reduce the fear of flying.
  10. Flying is not a must If everything does not help and you do not have to rely on flying for professional reasons, then you simply dare to forego flights. After all, beautiful corners where you can spend your vacation can also be reached by train or car.