July 10th, 2009
by Moira Bishop
An estimated 20% of adults have a fear of flying (aka aviophobia, aviatophobia and aerophobia), and the recent news regarding devastating airline crashes is causing more people to question the safety of air travel. Is it safe to fly? Is there a safer way to travel? Should I just stay home and avoid the risk altogether?
As we have pointed out in recent posts, it is safe to fly. Very safe, actually. Air travel is the second-safest mode of mass transportation (elevators and escalators are the most safe but unless you’re Willy Wonka, an elevator isn’t an available mode of international travel).
Should you stay home and avoid the risk of traveling? That’s probably not a good option. Even if you choose to avoid air travel for vacations, you probably can’t avoid it forever. Your job may require you to travel or you may need to go visit a sick family member.
Fear of flying is a very real fear and is almost as common as the fear of public speaking. Aviophobia can stem from other fears such as fear of tight spaces, crowds and heights. There are real anxieties and conditions that cause the fear and there are also real treatments. R. Reid Wilson, lead psychologist for American Airlines’ fear of flying program, surmises, “People frighten themselves by thinking of the possibility of a problem during a flight. Instead, they must learn to think of the probability of a problem, which is extremely low.”
A recent CNN article suggests that overcoming the fear of flying starts with trusting your plane, your pilot and the aviation industry as a whole.
Dr. Martin Seif, a psychologist and creator of the Freedom to Fly program, urges those in his program to “Stay in the situation and out-bluff anxiety.” The idea is that if you face your fear in small doses (i.e. spending time in an airport, watching planes take off and land, boarding a stationary plane) you will eventually be able to overcome them.
MSNBC offers Ten Tips for the Fearful Flier which are practical and reasonable. But if these tips don’t help, check out Fear of Flying or one of the many other safe flying programs available so that you’re transportation options are not limiting your vacation destinations.