According to estimates, between 10 and 30 percent of the population suffer from flight anxiety, also known as Aerophobia. Those who suffer from this phenomenon are fearful of staying inside the aircraft. The level of fear results in various phenomena, prior to and throughout the flight, up to an absolute avoidance of flying. Over the years, the aviation industry has evolved significantly, becoming an extremely safe means of transportation. The stringent regulations and most sophisticated systems enable millions of people to fly around the world safely every day.
Therefore, it can be determined with certainty that as with most fears, flight anxiety is irrational. However, it can cause great suffering; families who avoid flying due to the fear of one of their family members, missed business opportunities and promotions for those who cannot fly. However, in the vast majority of cases, it's possible to overcome flight anxiety.
The reasons of flight anxiety are obvious; we sit in a metal 'pipe' 10 kilometers above the ground, and our thoughts fly far away. Those suffering from flight anxiety worry about a wide range of scenarios, including a sudden crash, technical malfunction, human error, terror attack - the human imagination does not set limits on fears in general, and flight anxiety in particular.
One of the main causes of fear is the fact that we have trouble understanding how the aircraft stays in the air and doesn't suddenly fall. The transparent air doesn't seem reliable enough to hold an aircraft weighing tens or hundreds of tons.
The 'air pocket' phenomenon scares not only those who suffer from flight anxiety. The combination of unexpected turbulence and lack of technical knowledge cause many to fear the aircraft might fall into that imaginary air pocket, turn over or break.
For those afraid of flying, all these fears are realistic, and they imagine the aircraft facing each scenario. For quite a few people, flight anxiety is derived by other fears; the most prominent one is fear of closed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of heights, or fear of lack of control resulting from being in a closed aircraft.
Many people suffer from flight anxiety. The symptoms differ both in nature and intensity. Many report severe digestive problems before the flight; symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. But even those who manage to internalize their fear may suffer from hot flashes, dizziness and weakness.
Many of them remain seated throughout the flight, holding their chair firmly. In extreme cases, you can see passengers suffering from panic attacks including paleness, weakness, dizziness and fast heartbeat. Naturally, the most prominent symptom is absolute, or almost absolute avoidance of flying.
There are quite a few options for treating flight anxiety; starting with psychological treatments, through short-term treatments such as NLP and CBT, and in extreme cases, doctors will prescribe medications. However, it is undoubtedly possible to help most flight anxiety patients with focused, relevant info about the flight, various simulations and controlled flight experience (with pilot assistance).
In the audio system at some of the El Al's fleets, you can listen to Captain Alon Farag, who helps those who suffer from flight anxiety and helps them understand the flight and the phenomena involved. We encourage you to use this unique service to make your flight pleasant and to ease your fear.
Alon Pereg has a flight record of more than forty years. He started his career in the aviation industry as a fighter pilot in the Israel Air Force. After retiring, he joined EL AL as a pilot and is now the captain in the 747-400 aircraft. Alon Pereg runs a successful program that helps many overcome flight anxiety, helping them fly without undergoing treatments or taking medications. Frequent Flyer Club members accumulate points for participating in the program.
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