Tips for Supporting Travelers with Flight Anxiety
Every year, the World Health Organization and United Nations take the month of October to spotlight mental health. As a travel company, we know there is one very important piece we can add to this conversation: how to combat flight anxiety among your travelers.
Despite air travel’s positive safety record, up to 6.5% of Americans have a fear of flying, while up to 40% of all people experience some flight anxiety. And with many organizations finally ending their business travel pause, it is now more important than ever for corporate travel programs to safeguard traveler mental health in circumstances where flying is unavoidable.
Flight Anxiety: Explained
The first thing to understand about anxiety (in general) is that it presents itself in different ways in different people. What may cause moderate stress for one person could literally feel like life-or-death to another, even if that situation is not literally a life-or-death scenario. It just feels like one.
Flight anxiety is no exception to the rule. For some, air travel can trigger mild symptoms of anxiety just before they board the plane or reach the airport. For others, it’s a clinical phobia (aerophobia or aviophobia, to be exact) where even the thought of flying triggers severe panic attacks long before the scheduled flight date.
So What Causes Aerophobia?
Well, it usually doesn’t have a specific cause. In fact, it’s very rare for aerophobia to stem from a traumatic experience on a flight. Which makes sense considering that although 40% of people have a fear of flying, only 1.93 aircraft accidents occur for every 1 million departures – that’s less than 1%. To put it into perspective, you’re more likely to have been born a quadruplet than to get into a plane crash.
So while flight anxiety doesn’t have a direct cause, it may be triggered by:
Movies and news stories about terrorism, crashes, or violence on airplanes
Takeoff and landing
Thoughts about fire or illness spreading through the plane
Aerophobia/Aviophobia can also be a symptom of another phobia, such as:
Acrophobia (fear of heights)
Anthropophobia (fear of people)
Claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces)
Mysophobia / Germaphobia (fear of germs).