I’m Completely Over My Fear Of Flying

As long time blog readers may remember (and as I referenced yesterday in my post about Royal Jordanian’s possible new routes to the US), I had a pretty rough Royal Jordanian flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong back in March.

At the end of the day I’m not sure if there was merit to my fear or not (in the sense of whether we were actually in danger or not), but it was the first flight that ever literally brought me to tears, and I’ve logged over three million “butt in seat” miles. When I think back to the flight I still shake a bit and am short on breath.

For the first few months of travel after the incident flying was rough for me. My palms would sweat, I had a hard time sleeping on planes, and when we got into low visibility situations or moderate turbulence I’d have flashbacks to my Royal Jordanian flight. All of those are irrational, of course, but it wasn’t that I was really scared, but rather that I had flashbacks and felt incredibly hopeless.

A lot of you guys provided amazing support and thoughts on the situation, and many of you suggested I was suffering from PTSD and it would never go away.

Anyway, without giving it much thought I’ve noticed for the past several weeks of flying that I’ve finally gotten over my fear. I’m totally comfortable sleeping on planes again, and don’t really have flashbacks. When I do think of my Royal Jordanian flight I’m able to rationally remind myself of just how safe air travel is, and then usually feel at ease again.

On the plus side, the lessons of the Royal Jordanian flight have stuck with me. The thing that made me feel most hopeless about the Royal Jordanian flight was that my parents had no clue which specific flight I was on, and that’s actually what was going through my head more than anything during that flight.

Now that my mom is basically an expert texter (for better or for worse, since she got an iPhone earlier this year and enjoys texting me about every seven minutes – hi mom!) I always send her a picture of my boarding pass so she knows exactly which flight I’m on. And it sure puts me at ease a lot more as well.

But the other major lesson I’ve tried to apply – and it sounds cheesy as hell – is to just enjoy life and not take anything for granted.

Anyway, life is great, be it on the ground or seven miles up.

Filed Under: Advice
  1. Congrats on making progress over the fears. The tip about texting pic of boarding pass is a great idea! Really helpful for those last minute flight changes.

  2. I’ve always told people that how hard you grip the armrest or how loud you scream will not slow the plane down as it crashes into the ground, so just enjoy the ride in!

  3. I always try to leave my travel plans with someone in the event something goes terribly wrong. It all started after a similarly terrifying flight between Tokyo and Singapore. Although we didn’t experience any rain it was low visibility and to this day I’ve never been on a plane with anywhere near the same level of turbulence. Scary.

  4. I got rid of my fear of flying when I finally accepted that once the plane doors are shut/closed, my life really depended on the pilots and that all I can do is try my best to enjoy the flight.

  5. I had issues for a long time after losing a relative in a plane crash. The best treatment for me was to understand the anxiety process. A good book can help… Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective (Beck).

  6. Glad you have made such good progress! 🙂

    P.S. My mom had an old featurephone for a long time but was finally forced to upgrade for her prolonged stay overseas and now she’s learned to send texts and emails from her iPhone which helped alot during her trip and my trip (iMessages especially are convenient because they only need wi-fi connection and don’t have to pay roaming charges).

  7. Good for you, Lucky. I think some people might be surprised how many people in the frequent flyer hobby have had this fear. It’s kind of you to share this story.

  8. @ Nic — Nothing especially bad in the past 200K miles. Have definitely had some moderate turbulence, but nothing else eventful.

  9. I applaud you for being heartfelt and open re: your fear. You may not know it, but there are likely quiet readers of your blog (they may never post comments) who took some comfort from your post.

    Last year on an Air China flight between Xi’an and Beijing, we hit severe turbulence. Severe. Probably the closest thing to your RJ experience. Our kids (11&12 then)were treating it like a roller coaster, so we learned from them.

    @ Willy and @ Joey: Precisely. Enjoy the ride and be happy in the moment, even if it might be your last. Lucky, you’ve accomplished what many people will never do and as long as you’re happy in life, anxiety will never rule you.

  10. Rather than sending a picture of every boarding pass have you thought of using a service like Tripit that can automatically share your travel plans with your selected friends and family? You can even have it automatically search your email inbox so the whole process is completely automated…

  11. I’ve flown all of my life and have always had a certain amount of fear of flying. This is well known to two women who I traveled with for almost a year, but surprising to most people who know me and are aware of how much I travel. Most people assume that if you fly all the time, you couldn’t possibly be afraid or you wouldn’t. I am much more relaxed now than I ever have been, but I have my moments. I’ve been to over 80 countries and would never stop flying, but it always takes a bit of courage to get through it for me.

  12. Glad you’ve made your peace.

    So you’re now ready to review the new upcoming RJ service to LAX and MIA then? 😉

  13. Have you really flown 3+ million BIS miles? Assuming over 20 years, that’s 150k miles/year, 12.5k miles/month. Did you really do one round-the-world trip every 45 days for the last 20 years???

  14. I think your last two sentences summed it up. Enjoy life to the fullest and take advantage of opportunities when they become available. You never know when your number is up. I’ve known young people who were perpetually dreaming about their “trip of a lifetime” to some overseas destination, but work, kids, life, etc. got in their way and they never made a serious plan to get there (and so many people are unaware just how easy it can be accomplished with the right strategies). Then one day they die early due to an accident, cancer, or whatever. Sad. As they say, YOLO.

  15. During a flight over the Andes (Cordoba, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile), the pilot advised everyone to expect turbulence in the next few minutes.

    Boy, was he right! It was rock and roll and yaw and pitch, at a frequency of about 3+ Hz, for a couple of minutes. Astonishing!

    The tension was semi-broken by a Texan? somewhere behind me who was yelling “Yee haw!”

    That flight showed me what amazing stresses a commercial aircraft can withstand without damage.

  16. Ben(ie) – may I suggest the WhatsApp for texting your mom? It works with just WiFi and would be great with your travels for texting last minute changes.

  17. Your mom is so great. I’m glad I got to meet her last year at the 4th of July potluck in Lutz. I can’t believe at the time that I didn’t put two and two together as to who you both were!

  18. I understand this much: (1) Most of the danger is during take-off and landing, when the plane is close to the ground. (2) Once I am high enough, let’s say >5K feet, I am basically safe. You can be scratched up from somebody’s possessions flying around, but the turbulence is not going to crash the plane. The plane will recover from even ½ mile of fall in the air. Usually a 50-100 feet fluctuation up or down is what we’d be looking at. Put on your seat belt and watch a movie or go to sleep. 🙂

  19. So happy for you, @lucky. And not only because the fear has melted away, but because you seem to have learnt something from it.


Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *