Last updated: 09:43 AM ET, Mon May 09 2016

Is There A Cure For Fear Of Flying?

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | May 09, 2016

Is There A Cure For Fear Of Flying?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

According to recent statistics, your chances of being in an aircraft accident are about 1 in 11 million, while your chances of being killed in an automobile accident are 1 in 5,000.

Yet every day, people climb into their cars without a care in the world while approximately 9 million people in the United States – and countless others elsewhere – specifically avoid flying due to their aviophobia.

Would-be passengers have tried everything from a tame over-the-counter oral medication such as Dramamine to prescription meds to wristbands said to calm anxieties to, well, Jack Daniel’s.

Now, in a recent blog on The Economist’s website, the magazine suggested there might be four different types of cures that actually work.

All involve some form of therapy.

1) BEHAVIORAL – According to the magazine, “this typically involves breathing exercises, flight simulations, interaction with airline pilots, and finally boarding a plane and taking to the skies.” A 2006 clinical trial had a 98 percent success rate with patients who took this step-by-step approach until "graduating" from therapy until, a year later, they were able to fly on their own.

READ MORE: 3 Ways to Calm Air Travel Jitters With Yoga

2) COGNITIVE – In the same clinical trial, 50 more patients were taught how to regulate their own anxiety. All 50 graduated.

3) EDMR – This is the acronym for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, in which a doctor attempts to distract the brain (with light or sound) while the patient is thinking a negative thought. Experts say this method is “roughly as effective as behavioral therapy.”

4) VIRTUAL REALITY – Think one of those cool rides like at Disney World. Patients used a virtual reality flight that simulates turbulence to experience what a real flight would be like, with experts again saying it is similar to behavioral therapy.

READ MORE: Is Sex The Cure For A Fear Of Flying?

And more and more, airports and airlines are becoming proactive about helping aviophobiacs. According to a USA Today piece in 2014, Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport conducts a monthly fear-of-flying class, which includes allowing people who take the course to board a short, actual flight.

At General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, a similar course has been offered for 18 years. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic offer programs to help fliers deal with anxiety.


Well, think about it. That’s 9 million people who represent lost revenue for airlines and airports. A research paper published in 1978 noted that fear of flying cost American airlines nine percent of their revenues, or $1.6 billion in 1978 money. Imagine what it is now.

"The more people that are comfortable with flying, the more they're going to use our airport,'' Harold Mester, spokesman for General Mitchell Airport, told USA Today.  "We're generating potentially new customers every time they take this class.”


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