What Fearful Flyers Can Do to Help Themselves before Boarding


Travelling by plane can be a challenging experience for those who suffer from fear of flying, but there are steps you can take before boarding the which will help you have a calmer and more relaxed flight experience.

First off, to reduce anxiety it’s important to plan in advance as much as possible. Although excessive control can be counterproductive as the only strategy if used in the long term, it’s true that if done in a timely manner it can help you feel calmer.

Get Informed

Learn your aircraft’s route.  This can help heighten your sense of control even if you’re not the one in the cockpit.

Learn the weather forecast for the day of your flight  This offers a number of different benefits. Usually when the weather is going to be “good”, it will calms you down quite a bit. On the other hand, if the forecast isn’t so great, it at least allows you to be prepared so you’re not caught by surprise, and anxiously obsess over everything that happens during the flight’s bumpier patches – for example, turbulence is completely normal and safe, even if you find it unpleasant.

Familiarise yourself with your flight departure and arrival times. If there’s anything that particularly aggravates anxiety, it’s rushing. So leave free time in your schedule both before and after the flight. For example, if you’re travelling on business, your onboard experience will be better when you know that when you land you’ll have some time for yourself and don’t have to rush to a meeting.

Learn about inflight services.  This means the ones for both your safety and your comfort; this can also help you feel better prepared for your time in the air.

What to Bring along with You

Another key part of your preparation involves things that can make your flight more comfortable, mellow, and overall pleasant. These include:

A bit of light nourishment. Nothing too heavy, but perhaps a (hopefully healthy) snack or two. Just avoid foods with a strong odour, or are excessively messy to eat, or which include peanuts (due to the rise in peanut allergies in recent years, they can affect afflicted passengers around you even if they don’t come into direct contact).  Here’s a good article to read on the subject.

Some appealing tunes. Your favourite audio (music or spoken-word) tracks – whatever it is that makes you feel good. And by the way, it doesn’t necessarily have to be “relaxing”; paradoxically, sometimes focussing on making everything “calm” can be forced and unnatural,  and thus end up generating more anxiety than not. (And check out some playlist selections here.)

A good book. Whether paper or digital, something that distracts you and lets you mentally travel to another place when you feel that you’re overwhelmed and need a little break.

A game or other activity on your mobile or tablet – Similar to a book, this gives your brain something entertaining and engaging to focus on rather than your anxieties.

Plus One Last Tip

We recommend that when you are getting on the plane, you introduce yourself to some of the flight attendants and ask them for their first names. This little detail will allow you to feel much more secure if at any time you need help from them. In addition, calling them by name will make everything more familiar – something many people find very helpful when they’re restless or nervous. And above, also all keep in mind that the FA’s are there to help you, not judge you!

Happy fearless flying!


David Lanzas, founder of the Instituto Lanzas, is a psychologist specializing in anxiety and trauma.

Photo | martin-dm