I recently faced, and overcame one of my biggest phobias, the fear of flying. From my understanding, this is a very common phobia and it is estimated that one in four people have some degree of anxiety about flying.
The last time I flew, prior to facing, and overcoming this fear (we’ll get to the ‘how’ shortly), was in 2001, yes 2001! That is a really long time.
My dad is a keen traveller, so as children, we would go on these amazing holidays. He wanted us to see the world. This became even more affordable for us when he started working for a prominent UK airline, at one of the worlds busiest airports. His job opened up brilliant travel opportunities and we went to some lovely places. The cultural experiences you gain from travel are so enriching, they open your eyes to the different peoples of the world and how they live life. One of my favourite parts of travelling as a child was always the food. The cuisines on offer in all the different countries we visited-wow!
Flying to, and from the destinations however, was my least favourite part. I would sit there feeling anxious for the whole flight, and as I became older and more aware, my fears deepened. I developed claustrophobia, which only amplified this fear of flying. it got to the point where I would start to worry about an upcoming holiday weeks ahead of time. Thoughts of the impending journey would consume me, and of course I would build myself up so much to this fearful situation, that by the time I boarded that aircraft I was in a highly anxious state. I would cry uncontrollably during take-off, and at various points of turbulence, much to the annoyance and embarrassment of my parents.
My last holiday was to Thailand in 2001, and I became unwell whilst we were out there. Our holiday had to be cut short and we flew home.
The night before we left, I was in our hotel room and switched on the news, only to see reports that a famous RnB singer had died in a plane crash earlier that day. This sent my anxiety into overdrive. I then had a 13 hour flight, whilst unwell, worried after the news I had heard, and I decided that I wouldn’t fly for a while.
A few months later on 11th September and atrocity occurred, that shocked the world. A vile act claimed innocent lives and forever changed the lives of those that had lost loved ones. That was it I decided, no more flying for me. In my mind it was no longer safe, and as if the fear of crashing wasn’t enough, people were now deliberately flying into buildings!
Fast forward to 2018 and I have managed to find every single reason under the sun to avoid flying. We didn’t have a honeymoon. I didn’t travel with my husband before we had our children and I’ve missed family weddings and celebrations abroad because of the fear.
When my eldest daughter was born, I thought to myself, I don’t want to pass this phobia on, and I don’t want to deny her the experiences I had when I was a child. My children are so precious to me and I want to give them the absolute best of everything. That’s how I first came across the Flying with Confidence course run by British Airways. It boasted a high success rate, and after reading some of the testimonials on their website, I decided this could be the way forward.
The day consists of seminars from active and retired British Airways staff, and a psychologist who helps to explain the anxiety and panic about flying. The day ends with a 45 minute flight on board a British Airways aircraft, with running commentary during each phase of the flight, and an explanation of all the ‘strange’ noises. The course was brilliant and by the time we got to the terminal I felt really positive about the flight. While we were waiting at the gate, my anxiety started to build. Many people had brought companions along for the flight an I was alone, thinking about my husband and my children. The irrational thoughts started, as soon as I stepped onto that plane I was gripped by terror. I stepped back off immediately and although the staff tried their best to gently coax me back on, I was so overwhelmed with emotion by this point that I just couldn’t manage it. I left feeling utterly defeated.
When my second daughter was about 11 months old, my husband convinced me to try again and he booked a luxury holiday to Dubai. Some of my other family members decided to come along to support me. They all encouraged me to do it for the girls.
The day of the flight arrived and I felt great. I was determined to do this. I was excited to finally have a holiday and had spent a lot of time looking at the amazing resort online, using it as my motivation. However, on boarding, that familiar sense of panic began to creep over me, and I was in tears as I walked off the aircraft, leaving my daughters with my husband and the other members of my family who were going along. The cabin crew tried to convince me to get back on, and even the captain came to find me- I’m guessing he planned to give me some reassurance but I’ll never know, as by that time I was already being escorted back to the terminal by a member of airport security. My family went on that trip, and my girls had their first holiday without me. I had a week full of heartbreak and despair.
Determined to NEVER go through that heartache again, I decided to give the course another go. There is a flight-only option for those that don’t feel the need attend the seminars again, and this time my husband accompanied me.
Sitting at the gate that day, I felt sick to my stomach, but I stood quietly, looking out of the huge windows, watching aircraft after aircraft take-off, so casually, so comfortably, and I eventually started to feel myself calm down a little. I reminded myself that this happens all day, everyday, at various different airports all over the world.
When it was time to board, I heard a lady behind me say to her husband that she wanted to leave. I turned to her as we were walking to the aircraft and explained that I had been there and done that, and it was one of my biggest regrets. ‘We’re both going to be fine today’ I told her. She smiled at me nervously, completely unconvinced. I stepped onto that plane and as I made my way to my seat (which was right at the back), the aircraft felt small and I felt my panic starting to rise. I had the urge to turn back, but I knew if I did that, the feeling afterwards would be unbearable. I anchored myself with the thought of getting back home to my children after the flight. I sat down and buckled myself in. I used my breathing techniques (they discuss these in the seminars), and within minutes I was calm, happy, smiling, chatting with other passengers and looking forward to taking-off.
I am so happy that I pushed through those few moments of panic, and I’m so grateful for the company of my husband. Having him there gave me the extra boost of confidence I needed to keep pushing forward. Hand on heart I LOVED the flight! I never thought I would ever be able to say that, but the staff on the course give you so much support and they’re all so relaxed. They joke, and laugh, and give you the facts you need, to understand that flying really is safe, and you can put your trust in them and the way they do their job.
The course worked wonders for me, and stepping off that flight I felt so proud of myself.
We came home and booked a trip to Amsterdam, just for me and my husband. A short practice before we take the girls on their summer holiday. We go next week and I cant wait to tell you how it goes!
If a fear of flying is standing between you and the rest of the world, contact British Airways today. It is life-changing.