How to fly when you hate flying



If the idea of flying scares the bejeebus out of you, I feel your pain. I may love to travel but I absolutely hate flying.

Unlike my Mom who flies like a pro, I’m terrified of heights (or more the fear of plummeting to my death). I also live with anxiety. This means that my mind likes to run wild with worry when it comes to flying! I’ve taken tonnes of flights over the years, but a typical scenario would usually go like this:

Pilot: “This is your captain speaking. Just letting you know that there’s a small chance of a bit of turbulence during this flight”


I white-knuckle grip the armrest. My stomach clenches. I close my eyes and start to panic. For some reason, even though I know that statistically flying is one of the safest modes of transportation, I just can’t acknowledge that fact when I’m on a plane. There is a one in 11 million chance of dying in a plane crash by the way!

I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly causes me to go into panic-mode. Maybe it’s the lack of control? After all, there I am 37,000 feet above the ground with my fate in the hands of two strangers, in a metal tube in the sky.

Does this all feel familiar to you? Then you, my friend, will relate to this post.

Bear in mind that these methods mightn’t work for you. I still hate flying but below is what I do to calm myself down slightly:

Do not watch any movies with planes in them

Not never again, but definitely before a trip. I consciously make a greater effort in the run up to the flight not to watch a lot of movies. I’ve an overactive imagination and if I see a plane crash on screen I get incredibly worried. Movies to avoid before flying include Flight, Castaway, World War Z, Final Destination, Alive, Flightplan, Air Force One, Fearless, Con Air, The Grey and Knowing.

Bring a bottle of water

The cups of water that you get in flight usually aren’t enough for me as I like to sip. I find water incredibly calming when I’m nervous. You can’t obviously bring a bottle through airport security so what I usually do is bring through an empty bottle and fill it when I reach the other side.

Reach out

Don’t be afraid to tell the person next to you or even the crew that you’re scared of flying when you get to the airport. This may make you feel particularly vulnerable but you’d be so surprised at how empathetic people can be. If you’re flying alone this can be particularly effective because you won’t feel alone. Don’t suffer in silence.

Bring something to listen to

If there’s no monitor to distract you, having something to listen to is one of the ultimate distractions. Pop on those earphones and indulge in some good listening. Great podcasts to listen to on flights include Zero to Travel, The Indie Travel Podcast, Ted Radio Hour, BBC Food Programme, Serial and 99% Invisible.

Have a drink

Do you like to have a little tipple? Sometimes a drink (especially on a long-haul flight) will help take the edge off. That being said, don’t have lashings of alcohol which could potentially hinder you rather than help. Coffee may also make you feel jittery, something that you probably don’t need if you hate flying!

Recite the facts

To bring my mind back to the rational, I like to keep reciting facts about plane safety. Knowing how safe flying actually definitely helps. Consider this: you would have to take a flight every day for 55,000 years before encountering a fatal accident.  In fact, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than be in a crash, with a one in 13,000 chance for your lifetime. Of course, fatal accidents do occur, but the media gives them so much attention that your mind gets fooled and you begin to think they happen all the time.

Did you know that commercial aircrafts go through extensive testing before they’re sold to airlines? See below!

If there’s turbulence take a look at the cabin crew

They’re trained to remain calm and I find that if I ever need reassurance, looking at them is usually calming. Especially if they’re still walking up and down and serving drinks from the trolley. If the cabin crew aren’t freaking out, then I don’t need to be. Turbulence will not bring down a plane! They are designed to withstand it and pilots always do all they can to avoid it.

Nab a wing seat

For me, I often like being by the window so I can see the wing. Why? Because my mind sees it as being an outside reassurance. Also if you hate turbulence then the wing is also a great place to sit. The roughest spot is usually the rearmost rows closest to the tail. The caveat though is remembering that you’ll hear a large thump followed by an increase in noise when the landing gear comes down. Personally, I’ve never minded landing though because I’ll be back on terra firma!

Imagine you’re on a bus

This in one way sounds overly simplistic but it’s a technique that sometimes works for me. Once I’m familiar with the sounds and “bumps” of turbulence, I close my eyes and imagine being on a bus. With slow, long breaths, the feelings start to become familiar and the bumps don’t seem so scary.

Deep breaths

This sounds like an awful cliché but there’s science behind this. What happens when we get anxious is that our breathing becomes shallow. This is when my overactive imagination kicks in. What I like to do is breathe in for four seconds, hold it for a further four to six seconds and finally breathe out slowly for four.  That will trigger your parasympathetic nervous system. Repeat this as often as you need to.

Download the SOAR app

Fear of flying? There’s an app for that. You can use this on your phone (available on iOS and Android). The app contains a bit of everything from how to prep yourself at the airport, calming tools while you’re in-flight and a G-force meter.  Note however that there are in-app purchases.


Remember you’re not alone, so don’t feel embarrassed if you hate flying. A fear of flying can steal the joys of travelling and greatly reduce your ability to enjoy the rest of your trip. And I hate that feeling. I think the most important thing for me is to remind myself that there isn’t a quick fix when it comes to this.

I will remain persistent even though I still hate flying. It’s about challenging myself to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Bonus! Try a fear of flying course.

This is something I’m absolutely trying to save up for. I haven’t done one yet but the fact that they go through all the motions from airline safety to mock evacuation could really give me peace of mind. Check out (courses start at €149), Fly Fearless (starting at €90) or Flying with Confidence (price not available at the moment).

Did you enjoy this piece on “how to fly when you hate flying”? Have any tips? Let us know in the comment section below! You can also connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat.


Hello! Úna-Minh is a journalist, social media consultant and virtual assistant who loves (you guessed it) TRAVEL. She also feels a bit strange writing in the third person so she'll stop that now. You can find out more about me and my Mammy in the about section of this blog!

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  1. I do the ‘pretending it’s a bus’ thing all the time. It definitely works to calm my nerves down 🙂

    1. Yeah, my mind just tends to go into panic mode so much! Buses are I think a good comparison 🙂

  2. You definitely got some awesome tips here. I don’t really enjoy flying for many reasons as well. One of the reasons is the drop in cabin pressure which often causes me to get extreme shooting pains through my head. Deep breathing is a good tactic there for sure. Sleeping is the best tip, if you can do it, to pass the time. I have trouble sleeping on flights, unfortunately.

    1. Ahhhh that sounds like it hurts! I wish I could sleep but I just can’t get comfortable enough. It drives me crazy.

  3. I am not afraid of flying, or better: I wasn’t afraid of flying but I realise with every flight I take that I slowly but surely get more scared.. it started with me fearing a crash like probably everyone does a bit.. and now I am always scared of starting and landing as I read once that it’s statistically the most risky part of a flight; it makes me grab the armrests like a maniac (as if this would change anything anyway) … there is definitiv a rise of fear and I hope it will never get as bad that it will prevent me from flying.. THIS would really suck 🙁

    1. Oh gosh! I feel your pain – it’s such a horrible thing to experience when you’re just terrified. I hope it doesn’t get bad for you either!!

  4. I never used to have a problem with turbulence until I flew with my friend who is afraid of flying. It really sucks. Great suggestions.

  5. These are all really great, practical tips for timid flyers. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. Thanks Tracy! Hope they’re useful to people.

  6. You got some amazing tips here. I really enjoy flying, it was my dream as a kid.
    But my best friend don’t think the same thing lol I always suggested him to breath and to sleep, they are good tips!

    1. Ahh you’re lucky you enjoy it!

  7. Oh I hear you on this – until recently I was very scared of flying, and really struggled with travel but I think by going regularly I’ve started to overcome it. All your tips are ones I tried. I find listening to music, clam breathing and rational internal talk really helps me with my fears, particularly during turbulance.

  8. Some awesome tips for travelling found here. I have trouble sleeping on flights, unfortunately.

    1. Oh I hear you! I wish I could sleep.

  9. So I’m not too scared of flying, but my boyfriend is. It’s funny because the last time we went over the Pacific – his nerves wore on me and I ended up getting scared! However, one time I got REALLY scared on a plane, I was coming home from college several years back and decided to watch the season finale of Lost where they showed the plane crashing. I would agree – don’t watch a movie with a plane or a plane crash in it! That terrified me. Anyways, I digress – I’ve sent this post to the BF as we are leaving for Nepal soon!

    1. Oh no!! That Lost episode would’ve sent me over the edge! Hope you have a great time in Nepal – I heard wonderful things about it.

  10. Really great advice. Luckily I have never really had a problem with flying but still do get nervous occasionally ie when there’s bad turbulence. I guess the worst thing would be if you looked at the Cabin Crew and they themselves looked worried!

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