Travel bloggers are always writing about the best and easiest ways to rack up frequent flyer miles, and they go on and on about what airline they’ve flown in First Class, and where they’ve gone around the world and how little it costs. Even regular travelers are happy to share their experiences about flying to far away places they only dreamed about visiting, or even when they fly just a few states away to go to the wedding of their best friend from college.
But what if you’re afraid to fly? Driving places can only get you so far (literally and figuratively) and driving across the country will quickly eat up a whole lot of your vacation time.
So THEN what do you do?
The National Institute of Mental Health’s research has found that as many of 6.5% of Americans have a specific phobia, such as aviophobia, the fear of flying, There are estimates that 20-30% of the population is afflicted with some degree of fear of flying (that can run the gamut from simply being nervous while you’re flying to those who totally avoid going on planes due to terror). Fortunately, there are lots and LOTS of places that can help people with that fear. Here are a few:
CLASS: Cleared For Takeoff 101, Phoenix, AZ
This is a FREE class conducted at Sky Harbor Airport, held in a classroom and on a stationary aircraft. It’s is an introductory course to give the fearful flyer an overview of the fear process, learn coping strategies, and become educated about what fearful flyers fear most—takeoffs and turbulence.
Once you’re done with the CFT101 class, you can take Cleared For Takeoff 201, which is the advanced class. This class offers the opportunity to test your new education and coping skills during a short round-trip flight (about an hour each way) to an airport in southern California or Nevada.
CLASS: Overcoming Your Fear of Flying, Milwaukee, WI
The focus of Overcoming Your Fear of Flying is on providing members of the class with the skills and understanding they need to feel more comfortable about flying. To reach this goal, the class concentrates on two areas: learning about airplanes and how they fly, and learning about the causes and cures of fear.This class includes 4 classroom sessions at General Mitchell International Airport, as well as a short commercial airline flight.
CLASS: Fear of Flying Clinic, San Francisco, CA
The Fear of Flying Clinic has been around since 1976 is a non-profit support organization founded and operated by experienced aviation industry professionals, as well as top-notch support therapists, who volunteer their time and expertise in classes held several times a year. Their focus is on education and behavioral changes to full Cognitive Behavior Therapy, offering a 4-day Clinic (which includes a Graduation Flight), or a 1-day workshop (Graduation Flight not included).
CLASS: Fearless Flight, Hollywood, CA
When Joe and I went on the Pan Am Experience last autumn, we discovered that the company who helps run the themed dinner is Air Hollywood, which is an aviation-themed studio with, “the most realistic, film-friendly airport and aircraft standing sets and props to the motion picture production industry.” They offer a variety of airport sets, jetways, passenger airplanes, private jets, cockpits and mobile sets for use by the film industry when there’s a need for aviation-related scenes or footage.
Air Hollywood also runs a Fearless Flight program, to help people who are afraid of flying. During Fearless Flight 101, passengers are equipped with the knowledge and tools to combat their fears and anxieties surrounding air travel. The morning session includes a 4-hour classroom session, when students learn about the safety aspects of commercial air travel and practical exercises designed to reduce anxiety leading up to and during flight. This is followed by a 2-hour flight simulation aboard Air Hollywood’s true-to-life airplane mock-up. During the “flight”, students are encouraged to practice their anxiety management techniques and to ask questions. They also have an Advanced Class, which includes a short flight.
CLASS: The Fear of Flying Clinic, Seattle, WA
The Fear of Flying Clinic consists of two full weekends supplemented with CDs, lectures, demonstrations and reading materials. In-depth materials are presented on the commercial aviation system by seasoned pilots, Air Traffic Controllers, airline maintenance professionals, flight attendants, and others. Their behavioral counselors provide further tools to help manage fear and past clinic graduates are available to share their experiences and tell how they have learned to fly comfortably. The program includes a graduation flight on a scheduled commercial jet.
CLASS: Freedom to Fly, White Plains, NY
Run by the Anxiety & Phobia Treatment center, the “Freedom to Fly” workshops are held twice a year, in the spring and fall. The workshop consists of six group meetings, held at Westchester County Airport, on Wednesdays from 7:00-9:30 p.m. Also included are four hours of individual work with one of our certified Phobia Counselors. At the end of each session the class is escorted onto a stationary plane for “desensitization” purposes. The program is based on a cognitive-behavioral therapy model. They also take a “graduation flight” from LaGuardia Airport to Boston or Washington, D.C. and back.
CLASS: Flying With Confidence, London Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Dubai and Johannesburg
Fear of flying is, of course, not just limited to Americans. Over 50,000 people have attended British Airways’ one day courses to overcome their fear of flying over the last 30 years. Depending on the time of the flight, the day usually starts around 0900 and is divided into morning (technical) and afternoon (psychology) sessions, followed by a flight on a British Airways jet (Dubai and Johannesburg courses do not includes flights) with a running commentary from an extra pilot on the flight deck. Lunch and refreshments are provided throughout the day. The 45-minutes flight is normally around 5:00pm, and the day finishes at around 6:30pm.
Sometimes, of course, you live in an area that offers no classes. Not surprisingly, in this day and age, there are online courses available that you can take from the comfort of your home or office:
ONLINE: Fly Home Fearlessly
This online course offers 3 classes that go into topics that include (but are not limited to) how a plane flies, aircraft backup systems, airplane sounds and feelings and their causes, air traffic control, navigation, aircraft spacing and collision avoidance systems and turbulence.
SOAR offers 4 sets of DVDs that can be purchased separately, as one package or as one “guaranteed” program. The SOAR Guaranteed Fear of Flying Program includes all 11 DVDs and 2 hours of counseling for fear of flying with SOAR founder and licensed therapist Captain Tom Bunn LCSW. After completing the 11 SOAR fear of flying DVDs and the counseling, if you are not satisfied with the improvement when you fly, you will receive a full refund.
ONLINE: Fear of Flying Help Course
This is a FREE (contributions accepted) online course that has 5 lessons (Fear & Anxiety, People Who Work In Aviation, The Aircraft & Its Environment, Your Strategy for Success, and 3 parts of Your Virtual Practice Flight). The developer, Captain Stacey Chance also has a book, Wings of Discovery.
ONLINE: Takeoff Today!
This course is available as a download to your computer or as a print and CD version. They recommend taking 2 weeks to allow yourself enough time to thoroughly read and understand all the information and do the exercises (you can choose to take longer to do the program, but they say they typically see the best results when you complete it and take a flight in less than 90-120 days). If at any time within 8 weeks of purchase you don’t feel the program is what you want or expected, let them know (or send it back, if you ordered the Print and CD Version) and they will refund your money.
There are also apps for your phone you can try, colleges, psychologists and fear/phobia centers that focus on the fear of flying. A quick Google search for FEAR FLYING and whatever state you’re in or larger city or college town you’re near might be able to help. Just playing around, I did a search for FEAR FLYING KENTUCKY and discovered a hypnosis program in Louisville and a bunch of anxiety support groups scattered throughout the state. So they’re out there…you just have to search them out.
Traveling is an awesome thing to do and people limit themselves so much by being afraid to fly. Perhaps a class, course or other method can help you, or someone you know.
Love, smiles and wing earning to M.C. and T.P. – I was thinking of y’all when I wrote this. 😉
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I have fear of being held captive by the incompetent airlines. (I used to fly quite a bit, but have not flown at all in a few years). I have had enough of being flown to catch my cancelled connection where I have to spend the night. I am tired of my luggage disappearing, only to have it turn up days later so I have the pleasure of driving back to the airport and parking to pick it up. Delivery? “We don’t deliver to that location.” Crafty gate changes designed to make passengers miss their flights so the tickets can be resold. Charges for booking changes caused by the airline. I have had enough vacations ruined by the airlines. Nevermind the environmental impact and wasted energy for no reason other than to have fun or play king and queen for a few days. . Never again. What a total waste of money and time.
What you’re describing is not the same as being afraid to fly. But I hope you’ve figured out alternate ways to travel, to avoid your annoyances with airlines.