Q&A on fear of flying

PlanePsychologist and psychotherapist Patricia Furness-Smith and Captain Steve Allright, authors of Flying with Confidence, joined us in July 2013 to answer your questions about the fear of flying .

For many flying can be a traumatic experience, and some even avoid it altogether. Patricia Furness-Smith, has over 20 years of experience and Captain Steve Allright, a BA training captain on Boeing 747 and professional pilot who has clocked up over 10,000 flying hours, are the authors of Flying with Confidence, a book based on the BA course. Both Patricia and Steve have been members of BA's Flying with Confidence team for over 10 years.

Flying anxieties| Plane noises| Landing| Travel Sickness | Budget airlines

Flying anxieties

Q. LeonieDeSainteVire: How do you stop being terrified of flying? I do fly but as my fear has gotten worse I have found that I am avoiding/limiting flights where possible and it's starting to restrict my family. Also, although I have never had a panic attack, I really feel one might be likely on a plane and the thought of losing control like that is really worrying.

I understand basically, the physics of flying and that it is a very safe form of travel etc but can't get over the fact that sometimes it goes wrong, and if it does go wrong there will be nothing I can do to protect my children. I know this is a fact so how can I accept it and not be paralysed with fear when I fly? We are flying on holiday in a few weeks and I've been waking up in a cold sweat thinking about it for months. I have Diazepam prescribed for the flight but to be honest it has almost no effect, the fear is stronger!

A. Patricia & Steve: A large number of people have the prospect of their holiday spoilt by suffering from anticipatory anxiety and living in fear of a panic attack. In addition some people like yourself find that medication doesn't help them a great deal. As this is upsetting your sleep patterns I recommend that you deal with it sooner rather than later. Reading the book, Flying with Confidence, will equip you with the skills to prevent a panic attack so this will empower you enormously, and help you to get out of the vicious circle you have found yourself in. You are now not only worrying about the flying but also worrying about your potential reaction to the flying as in you fear a panic attack. You are therefore indoctrinating yourself with negative ideas, which will only serve to make the fear greater. Many people find the knowledge from the book is sufficient to remove their concerns as myths are debunked and are replaced by facts about safety. I hope that you have a wonderful relaxed holiday once you have challenged your attitude to flying.

Q. Wiifitmama: Why has my fear of flying got so much worse over time? I have been flying since I was a baby with a very international, well-travelled family. I never had any fear at all until about ten years ago. Nothing specific started it off but it has got worse and worse. The last flight was short from Venice to London and I was nearly hysterical over what felt like extreme turbulence to me, but nothing to anyone else. It has totally put me off the idea of a holiday abroad. I also find the turbulence (even mild) makes me nauseous. Why has it worsened?

"The very fact that we have to pay greater attention to what we are doing puts a greater strain upon us and sometimes the accumulation of lots of little changes or a few major changes can take its toll, mentally, physically or both."

A. Patricia & Steve: You say that nothing specific has triggered it but we often develop mental health difficulties as a result of change, be it good or bad. The very fact that we have to pay greater attention to what we are doing puts a greater strain upon us and sometimes the accumulation of lots of little changes or a few major changes can take its toll, mentally, physically or both. For example one of the main reasons why people develop a fear of flying is becoming a parent. Because your world is significantly changed, this has to be adapted to and you can no longer live your life on a form of auto-pilot as you have a dependent to look after.

In this particular example a second factor is also involved in that on an evolutionary level you are programmed to assist in the survival of the next generation and therefore might well find that you become more risk adverse, (many new parents give up motorbiking, bungee jumping etc). Even though this is entirely irrational in the case of flying, since this is the safest form of transport available. If we do want to be around to raise the next generation it would be more rational to give up driving which really is a risky occupation! To demonstrate the extra demands that change can make upon us I often ask clients to brush their teeth or hair with the opposite hand to the one that they usually use. They then see first hand, if you pardon the pun, the extra effort involved in doing such a tiny task, which previously required little concentration but considerable effort when switched to the opposite hand.

As to why the problem has got worse. Although you might well have long since left behind the extra stress that caused the phobia in the first place, by not effectively addressing the problem you have reinforced the bad habit. This is very similar to revising for an exam so that you can deliver the goods on the day of the examination. In your case you have been diligently rehearsing/revising how frightening you find flying and now have become proficient in finding it extremely uncomfortable. I hope that very soon you will be back to your natural self, which is someone who ten years ago knew how to fly with confidence.

Q. Loopyloou: I am terrified when flying and would appreciate an explanation of exactly how a plane stays in the air, and also what causes turbulence and at what point it becomes dangerous.

A. Patricia & Steve: It sounds like you need to come on our course! The theory of flight, especially lift, is explained and demonstrated fully on our special one day BA Flying with Confidence Course. Turbulence is also covered in great detail. Both these topics are also covered in our Flying with Confidence book.

"Turbulence may be uncomfortable, but it is NEVER dangerous."

In a nutshell, the shape of the wings enable the aircraft to fly by creating a suction (low pressure) above the wing as they are forced through the air by the engines. Turbulence is caused by a number of different things, the most common in the cruise being jet streams, fast moving "rivers" of air snaking around our planet at high altitude caused by the differential heating of land and sea masses combined with the rotation of the Earth. Turbulence may be uncomfortable, but it is NEVER dangerous.

Q. CocktailQueen: I used to travel all over the world with my husband - to New Zealand, Canada, Samoa, America. But since we had kids I have become more and more scared of flying, helped by a couple of incidents like being hit by lightning and an aborted landing. Now, if I think about flying, I am terrified - I am sick, get diarrhoea, and can't help thinking about our entire family dying in a plane crash. Please, please, what can I do to help myself so that I can go on holiday with my family?

A. Patricia & Steve: The key to your "incidents" is that you are still here to tell the tale. Lightning strikes on aircraft occur almost every day somewhere around the world, and pose no threat to safety. I have had seven, but none for about ten years, that is the nature of flying. The aircraft is designed to withstand a lightning strike, and to dissipate the static electricity that is generated via static wicks at the rear of the wings and tailplane.

An aborted landing can feel like a traumatic event, but in reality it is a quite routine event for pilots to execute, and something we are trained to do when it is safer to "go around" than to land. In the high landing density of traffic at Heathrow, a go around (aborted landing) happens at least once every day. It is the safe option if the preceding aircraft is still on the runway.

In short you can master the 4Rs techniques to enable your body to not change from long-term survival mode to short-term emergency survival mode. This is caused by your fight or flight response mechanism being activated which causes a cocktail of stress hormones to be released into your body to deal with the perceived threat. Your fight or flight response is designed for physical threat, hence why all non-essential processes shut down so that all resources can be put into your escape from the threat (flight) or if this is not possible then into defeating the threat (fight). A good example of this is the shutting down of your digestive system causing you to have a dry throat (saliva not produced in the same quantity) and often vomiting or squitters which will cause you to be lighter and able to run faster to get away from the threat. Finally should you be caught by the threat/predator you will not smell too appetising so might well not get gobbled up.

Q. CaptainJamesTKirk: I am afraid of flying. I avoid doing it at all costs and haven't done it at all since I became a mum. What frightens me most is that these aircraft are always flying. I mean they do an eight hour flight and then have a 1-2 hour turn around and then they're flying again. I worry about stress and wear and tear on aircraft, especially as some are very old. Your car couldn't cope with that and it doesn't have four jet engines and fly at 40,000 feet. On top of that there's the volume of aircraft in the air - I've seen the flight tracker apps. Are our skies getting too full?

I know you are all professionals, but pilots are not miracle workers if a plane is suddenly no longer air worthy. Air traffic control near-misses are not unheard of and I know there are aircraft engineers to maintain the aircraft, but they work through the night and people working overnight are statistically more likely to make mistakes because we are designed to be asleep. Can you reassure me that these aircraft are definitely air-worthy, honestly (even on budget airlines)?

A. Patricia & Steve: Yes. The reason that aircraft are able to continue flying for so many years is down to one thing, excellent maintenance. You are quite right, the time spent on the ground is less than in the air, but EVERY time the aircraft is on the ground the aircraft is checked. A more detailed check is carried out in every 24 hour period, and an even more detailed check every week. After a certain amount of time, or "cycles" the aircraft is removed from flying altogether for several days to probe into "wear and tear" issues. This gets ever more searching as the aircraft gets older with old parts being replaced to the extent that a very old aircraft is actually almost completely made of new parts! All of these processes are laid down and contribute hugely to air safety.

Air traffic control is a long subject, which we cover on the course and in the book in detail, but suffice to say, the skies are never too full, otherwise we have to stay on the ground to await our take-off slot. Air traffic controllers are licensed professionals, just like pilots.

Q. Diabolo: I have to take Diazepam to fly, although this is a recent fear, because back in my 20's I loved flying. I have in the last few years, developed anxiety issues around claustrophobia. I'm not scared of flying as such - I'm scared that I will have a panic attack due to being in an enclosed space, and that I will freak out and try to open the doors at 30,000 feet and kill myself and everyone else on board. The diazepam helps a lot, makes me feel calm and happy and I've been OK during flights for the last couple of years, but I get really stressed out for several weeks before flying.

Are all staff members trained to restrain someone if necessary? If I do "freak out" mid-flight what will the cabin crew do to me?

A. Patricia & Steve: The doors cannot be opened in flight due to the pressure differential so there is absolutely no chance of this eventuality. Secondly you can control the panic by mastering the 4Rs techniques.

"The diazepam helps a lot, makes me feel calm and happy and I've been OK during flights for the last couple of years, but get really stressed out for several weeks before flying." This is anticipatory anxiety and can also be controlled by use of the 4Rs techniques and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

"Are all staff members trained to restrain someone if necessary? If I do "freak out" mid-flight what will the cabin crew do to me?" Yes, they are fully trained to keep both you and all the other passengers safe. But prevention is better than cure so I very much encourage you to learn the simple techniques which will enable you to avoid freaking out in the first place.

Q. Dappledawn: I don't like flying but have learnt to grit my teeth and put up with the fear. My nine-year-old son has Asperger syndrome and is terrified of flying - the last trip I took him on, he screamed for most of it (and it was a 12 hour flight!) Is it OK to sedate him? if so, with what? Will the doctor give me a prescription just for the flights? I couldn't bear a repeat of the last time.

A. Patricia & Steve: I definitely recommend a visit to your GP who will be able to advise you about what can be done to help your son. I appreciate that this must have been a very upsetting experience for him and also very distressing for you to witness his upset. Your doctor might be able to refer your son to someone specialising in working with people with Asperger's. They will then be able to use appropriate techniques to help him to understand his experience. Although we offer courses aimed at children, sometimes, alternative interventions and techniques are more appropriate for children who have further challenges. Your GP may suggest a combination of therapy and medication. I hope that your next flight is stress free once you have received the support you need.

Q. Ebe1925: I am currently off work due to generalised anxiety which I now realise had been building for a long time. I had recently started a new job and part of that involves travel - it was having to fly which has tipped me over the edge.

I had never had the opportunity to fly until eight years ago. I was very apprehensive about flying but managed it by talking non-stop to the person I was with. This time was different as I had to fly by myself with no distraction. I got so worked up about it, and in the end I couldn't go to the airport and then went into meltdown. I am not sure what exactly I am afraid of, apart from the fear of being afraid, and having some kind of a panic. One part is that something so big and heavy shouldn't stay in the air. Another part is that there is no way out - you can't just get off a plane or open a window if you need to. When I have flown, I found the taking off and landing quite scary. Looking out of the window was fascinating but also scary. But the worst was when the plane suddenly dips, or the engine sounds like it's stopped, or when there is some turbulence.

I am having Cognitive Behaviour Therapy at the moment for my overall problems - at some stage I will have to manage not just going back to work but also the travelling. Any constructive help on this point would be massively useful.

A. Patricia & Steve: It sounds like you need to come along to our course, which addresses all of these fears and more. Regarding how big and heavy the aircraft is, refer to one of my previous answers about lift, and all you need is to have big enough wings to balance the lift with the weight of the aircraft. Turbulence is uncomfortable but NEVER dangerous, please see an earlier answer on this subject. When it sounds like the engines have stopped, I think you are referring to levelling off, or perhaps the reduction in power just after take off, when we do not require so much power because we no longer have the drag of the landing gear. This reduction in RATE of acceleration (and how your balance system plays tricks on you in the air) is fully explained in our book, Flying with Confidence.

Q. Southfarnhammum: I have developed a fear of flying since having children. I used to fly all over the world without any worries at all. My Dr has prescribed Diazepam and I'm hoping that will do the trick. Are there other techniques that I could try? I have tried hypnotherapy very successfully in the past which cured my crippling fear of spiders. I now just dislike spiders but they no longer terrify me. The trouble with flying is that, unlike arachnophobia, there is some logic to it.

A. Patricia & Steve: There is also some logic in being wary of spiders as some can be dangerous, however, it is extremely rare. So too with flying, in that there is nothing that is 100 % safe, however flying is the closest you will come to 100% safety since Air Transport has a zero tolerance policy to anything that might compromise your safety.

Congratulations on defeating your arachnophobia and with the same determination I am sure that you can conquer aviaphobia. I wish you many happy flights to come.

Q. Wannabuyawatch: I feel different as I don't have a fear of the plane crashing or anything going wrong. My fear is simply that I am terrified of having a panic attack and there is nothing I can do to escape the situation. I had been getting much better but had an awful panic attack on my last flight for no reason whatsoever. I just sat for the rest of the flight in complete misery, hot, sweating, unable to open my eyes and just wanting it all to be over. I am desperate to get over this, but have tried Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and alcohol therapy! Only thing I haven't done is take beta blockers/valium because I am too scared. I don't want to limit my children's life because of this and would do anything to be cured!!

A. Patricia & Steve: Many people are uncomfortable about taking medication and if this does not sit well with you I suggest that you attend one of our courses. By having the support of a dedicated team you will be able to understand what is happening to your body and how to control the symptoms caused by anxiety. If you read the Flying with Confidence book you will learn how to relax your body so that if you do become anxious at any point, instead of feeling helpless you will know what to do to calm yourself down. You will be able to defeat this problem if you remain determined to not allow it to limit your life.

"It doesn't matter how many factors feed into a phobia, once you have the understanding about what is happening, you will be empowered to deal with it."

Q. LilBlondePessimist: My flying anxiety is so bad that I have actually cried reading the posts on this thread. If I am driving near an airport and a plane flies overhead, landing or taking off, I begin to shake.

I won't fly without my children as I don't want to leave them without a mother. We emigrated to Australia two years ago and I really don't think I can face visiting home. I have almost not got on several flights, and completely broke down and just didn't get on one, even with several kind and patient stewards trying to help me on. My husband was pissed that we didn't go on that holiday, to say the least. I didn't fly for almost five years at one point, and any time I do force myself now, I spend the flight in tears. Diazepam and beta blockers don't work. I also fear heights, being driven by other people on motorways, and public transport in general. Oh, and I have a phobia of other people vomiting near me.

Can someone with such an extreme fear ever be 'cured', and what would it take? I'd really love to be able to fly for my children's sake, and not let them pick up on my fear.

A. Patricia & Steve: The simple answer is yes. It doesn't matter how many factors feed into a phobia, once you have the understanding about what is happening, you will be empowered to deal with it. I am so sorry that you have suffered so much with your emetophobia, acrophobia etc. The techniques discussed in the book are transferable skills, which will assist you in dealing with motorways and all your other problems. It seems that your difficulties have blighted your life long enough and it is now time to take action to reclaim your freedom to live your life how you want to live it. I wish you every success in this endeavour.

Q. S3BFD: I am not scared of flying at all but my husband is. He has never been on an aeroplane so I feel he is frightened irrationally about something he has never even experienced (good or bad). He also claims to have a fear of heights.

He actually blames his parents for never taking him on a plane as a child and surprise, surprise his mother had a fear of flying which I believe she has more than likely imposed in my husband's mind.
His opinion is if an aeroplane has a fault - 100% chance you crash - 100% guarantee you die.
The problem is I love holidays abroad and I am finding him very restrictive. Now we have children he will not let me take them on a plane and I will not holiday without them. It is causing me to resent him. I am fed up of going to Butlins/Haven.

Unfortunately, he will not talk about his fear (just bites my head off), will never entertain hypnotherapy, refuses flying fear course and will not take sedatives to fly. What else can I do? I do not want my kids to end up scared to fly like him.

A. Patricia & Steve: "His opinion is if an aeroplane has a fault - 100% chance you crash - 100% guarantee you die."

This is totally erroneous and the statistics say otherwise, which should reassure you enormously
First of all it is important to understand that nobody wishes a fear of anything upon themself and having a phobia takes an enormous toll not only on our freedom but our self-confidence and self-esteem also. I think that if your husband could be sufficiently open minded to explore his problem by reading the book it would be an excellent first step and might well be all that he needs to re-evaluate his attitude. Although technically he is not someone with aviaphobia, since he as never flown and therefore is someone with neophobia (fear of new experiences) there is a good chance that he has developed his difficulty due to his mother's attitude to flying. I appreciate that you are desperate that your children should not learn the same behaviour/attitudes. If you cannot persuade your husband to address his difficulties with flying then it would be useful for you to read the book to gain an insight into what he is going through and then you could support him appropriately by explaining what is happening to him. Alternatively you could encourage your husband to address his fear of heights first as this may feel more accessible for him and success in this area might well provide him with the impetus to challenge his fear of flying.

As well as specialising in phobias I have worked for over twenty years as a relationship therapist and appreciate how resentments can build up if partners are not able or willing to try to meet each other's needs. Another avenue to addressing this issue is to consider relationship therapy so that your husband can gain an appreciation of how important it is to you that you and your children are not limited by his refusal to address his problem. I wish you every success so that you and your family can enjoy visiting this fantastic world in which we live.

Plane noises

Q. Justmuddlingalong: During the flight, when the aircraft makes all the ding-dong noises, I panic thinking it's a code from the captain signalling to the air crew that something's gone wrong. Can you explain what these noises mean?

A. Patricia & Steve: There are several things which cause "ding-dong noises" all of which are entirely routine. The most common is the on board inter phone system, another the signal from the flight deck to all cabin crew that the aircraft is about to take off, and when the seat belt sign is turned on or off you will also hear a chime. Every exit door and most galleys on board an aircraft have an interphone station where crew can communicate with each other routinely, for example, if they have run out of orange juice in one cabin and need more bringing up. The ding dong is NOT an indicator of serious disaster. It is important to remember that in the extremely rare event that there is a technical problem, for example that may cause you to divert, you will be told by the flight crew, so unless you hear otherwise, assume everything is normal.

Q. TheDoctorsWife46: My landlord is a pilot and I quizzed him repeatedly about flying. My fear has gotten progressively worse when six hours of turbulence from St Lucia left me terrorised. I flew again after but I had five Valium! Five. They did nothing other than effectively trap me in my own body, my mind raced and raced with fear but my body didn't respond in a panic. I know in my rational mind that flying is safe and normal but, why do pilots not talk you through turbulence if it's so normal. And if I really can't manage my fear are there short acting sedatives I could resort to?

"The 4Rs roughly involves learning how to React, Regulate your breathing, Relax your muscles and Rehearse a positive scenario. By doing the 4Rs you can avoid or arrest a panic attack by inducing a state of relaxation."

A. Patricia & Steve: It is the very fact that it is normal that it is not seen as worthy of comment, apart from requesting that you remain seated with your seat belt fastened. Many people try to work during a flight and would find it very distracting to have a running commentary. Remember that turbulence is an entirely normal and natural phenomenon just like you would expect your channel crossing by boat to vary due to the smoothness of the sea some days and other days it may be more wavy. We do have a running commentary from the flight deck on our courses, which anxious passengers find very reassuring.

"And if I really can't manage my fear are there short acting sedatives I could resort to?"

Your GP can advise you on what would be suitable in terms of sedatives eg. small dose of Diazepam. If you wish to go down the medication route considerable care should be taken to get the right dosage so that you are not overly sedated. You could then be incapable of looking after yourself on the flight. This is why being overly intoxicated on alcohol on a flight is frowned upon since you can pose a danger to yourself and others.

Since sedation does have side effects I always encourage people to take real control by mastering the 4 Rs techniques, which are described in detail in the book. The 4Rs roughly involves learning how to React, Regulate your breathing, Relax your muscles and Rehearse a positive scenario. By doing the 4Rs you can avoid or arrest a panic attack by inducing a state of relaxation. Once you are relaxed you can access your rational mind, which knows how safe flying actually is

Q. Timidviper: I don't like flying but, for me, it is when we are up in the air and I think the engines are stopping. The note of the engine seems to drop until I feel sure it is about to stop. On our last flight I had about half an hour of battling panic despite Valium and several gins. Any thoughts or advice please?

A. Patricia & Steve: Please see my previous answer if you are referring to the "noise abatement" procedure just after take off. Your inner ears work as accelerometers, and so the change in rate of acceleration is what you sense, together with an actual, but very small, reduction in thrust. The other time the engine note would drop is when you level off in the cruise and less power is needed.



Q. Jamtoast12: I do not enjoy flying at all, but even so I still can't help watching all those air traffic investigation programmes. My question is - on occasions we hear that a plane's engine can all go out, and the pilot can land safely by gliding i.e. the New York river landing. But then other times a plane can suddenly crash?! What's the difference? Surely if a problem occurs, could the pilot glide it down?

A. Patricia & Steve: It is quite true that in the extremely rare event that if an aircraft loses all of its engine thrust, it can glide perfectly well, up to 100 miles from cruising altitude. There have been accidents, as you mention, where aircraft crash, for a number of other reasons where the aircraft is not able to glide, each accident being unique in its causal factors.

"Flying has always been the safest form of travel, and becomes ever more so year on year."

It is worth remembering that following an accident investigation lessons are learnt, and steps are taken to introduce new design and procedures. These steps ensure that a similar accident should never happen again, and this is one of the reasons that if you look at the statistics you will see fewer and fewer crashes and fatalities year on year, even though the number of flights and passengers travelling increases year on year. Flying has always been the safest form of travel, and becomes ever more so year on year.

Q. PeggyBabcockBoot: I fly half a dozen times a year, but have always been scared of the plane take off and landing and hate that acceleration feeling on the runway. I spent most of my flights staring intently at the flight attendants' faces, gauging whether they look concerned at the bumps and pings. 

I worry about the angle of the plane on take off. Have there been many cases of airplane tails/back ends dragging on the ground and causing crashes? What stops this from happening (probably an insane question, but one of my concerns upon takeoff).

What happens if take off is not achieved? Is the plane capable of slowing down again before the end of the runway?

Do most crashes in the air happen in the cloud layer where there is less visibility? Should I add this to my long list of worries?

What happens if the wheels fail (ie. don't come down). Is there a back-up set?

After landing, what happens if the brakes fail to slow the plane - does it have to take off again, and has it got the capability to take off again?

A. Patricia & Steve: Not insane, as it is possible, but 100% of take off "rotations" are controlled manually by the pilots, and so it would take an extraordinary lack of judgement to cause the tail to drag on the ground, and even then the aircraft would still be able to fly.

"What happens if take off is not achieved? Is the plane capable of slowing down again before the end of the runway?" Yes, we have a speed at which we must continue the take off, called V1, but any time up until that point we can brake the aircraft to a safe stop.

"Do most crashes in the air happen in the cloud layer where there is less visibility? Should I add this to my long list of worries?" No. I think you are referring to crashes that occur in fog, which has been a causal factor in a number of accidents in the past, but with improved technology, is now far less of a challenge to pilots.

"What happens if the wheels fail (i.e. don't come down). Are there a back up set?" There is a back up system, as there is with everything on aircraft, but aircraft are able to land quite safely without any wheels, and this happened once or twice over the years.

"After landing, what happens if the brakes fail to slow the plane - does it have to take off again, and has it got the capability to take off again?" There are many different devices and braking systems that are able to stop the aircraft, and the chances of them all failing at the same time as you touch down are nil. Even then the aircraft could indeed take off again just after it touched down. 


Travel Sickness

Q. BlessThisMess: Mine is a slightly different question because I don't have a fear of flying, as such, but I do have a fear of vomiting. Do you think flying is less nausea-inducing than other forms of transport, and what would you suggest would help reduce the risk?

A. Patricia & Steve: Many people suffer from a variety of forms of motion sickness or travel-sickness, which is broadly caused by your vestibular/Balance system sensing movement whilst visually you are not able to see the extent of the movement to form a match or consistency. A good way to understand this is to think about how you feel when you spin around and then suddenly stop. Your vision is picking up that you are stationary but the fluid in your inner ear continues to rotate and tells you that you are still moving. So you have a conflict with regard to what is happening, i.e. your eyes are telling you one thing and your Balance system in the ears is telling you something else. This causes nausea and the body then interprets this in a very primitive manner and deduces that you must have ingested poison. So in an attempt to rectify the situation your body will try to make you vomit to get rid of the perceived poison.

Without going into detail, whether flying is less nausea inducing than other forms of transport depends largely on your vestibular equipment as to which type of motion you find triggers the nausea, i.e. is it linear movement or rotational movement or both? Some people suffer from carsickness but not seasickness and vice versa.

About a third of the population are prone to seasickness because there can be considerable rotational movement due to the rolling effect caused by the waves. This coupled with being in a berth without a window (therefore no visual information available showing the movement) triggers the nausea.

Many people suffering from this problem find that taking some form of ginger like ginger tea helps to prevent the vomiting, due to its anti-emetic qualities, but does not get rid of the nausea. Booking a window seat helps the situation since you will be able to gain visual information showing that you are moving which will match with your vestibular information that you are moving rather than just looking at the interior of the aircraft which does not give you an indication of movement and hence the dissonance/discrepancy. It is worth a visit to your GP to seek advice, as there are various treatments available consisting of pills, patches and special glasses etc., which can help you.


Budget airlines

Q. JustGiveMeFiveMinutes: I'm a bit wary of the experience and competence of the pilots of budget airlines and holiday company airlines compared to BA, Virgin etc airlines. Is this a justified fear?

"Every six months, regardless of which company you work for, a pilot has to undergo rigorous testing in the simulator in order to retain his flying licence."

A. Patricia & Steve: No. All pilots are trained and checked to a legal standard that is set and monitored by the Civil Aviation Authority. Obviously experience levels, initial training, ongoing technical and non-technical (teamwork) training will vary from airline to airline, but every six months, regardless of which company you work for, a pilot has to undergo rigorous testing in the simulator in order to retain his flying licence. On top of that we undergo an annual medical, a technical refresher and route checks on routine flights.


Last updated: 25-Jul-2013 at 9:50 AM