Fear of flying

We’ve compiled some helpful advice for people who feel anxious before their flight, no matter whether it’s a question of a fear or phobia. It is worth keeping in mind that flying is still one of the safest ways to travel.

A woman looking out a window at an airplaine

Identify the fear

  • Try to recall when your fear of flying started – nobody is born with a fear of flying, and if you can find out how it started, it is easier to deal with the fear.
  • Try to identify the fear: Are you afraid because you feel closed in, or is it perhaps the feeling of not having control?
  • Think about whether there is another cause of this fear, one that may not be related to flying. It may, in fact, be a completely different stress factor that is causing your fear.
  • Do you need help to identify and overcome your fear? There are effective classes to reduce or overcome your fear of flying or flying phobia, using what is called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

A few weeks before the flight

  • Read about planes and air travel. This can make it easier to identify the different sounds and relax. 
  • Look for information on-line about what you are most afraid of, if you know what that is.
  • Go to the airport and get used to the environment, watch aircraft as they take off and land, and enjoy a cup of coffee in peace and quiet without feeling the stress of having to fly.
  • Contact the airline you are travelling with. Explain that you are afraid of flying. If you feel safer in a certain section of the airline – for example at the very front, the back or the middle – you can call the airline in advance and ask to be seated there.
  • Try different relaxation exercises, or exercises in which you go through the flight process step by step.

The evening before your flight

  • Try to be well rested and if possible go to bed earlier the night before your flight. 
  • Avoid alcohol – both before and on your flight.

The day of your flight

  • Eat a solid meal. It’s a good idea to take along a snack. If you are nervous, it’s easy to skip breakfast or another meal, which can make you feel ill or dizzy.
  • Wear comfortable clothes so that you’re comfortable during the flight.
  • Arrive well in advance at the airport.

During the flight

  • Introduce yourself to the cabin crew and tell them that you think flying is unpleasant.
  • Talk with the cabin crew if something worries you. They are used to helping people who are afraid of flying. They can help you, explain things to you and check up on you to increase your sense of safety and security on board.
  • Drink a lot of water. 
  • Avoid alcohol. If you try to numb your fear with alcohol, the feeling of not having control over your body may intensify. Furthermore, that means you never deal with your fear but instead hold on to it and perhaps even intensify it before your next flight.
  • Remember that you are not the only person who is afraid of flying – so try not to hide it or suppress your feelings.
  • Remember to be calm, take deep breaths and try to relax. Avoid gripping the armrest tightly.
  • Try different relaxation exercises, such as mindfulness.
  • Move around as much as you can during the flight – get up, stretch or take a few steps when you don’t need to wear your seatbelt.