Allow me to introduce myself. My name’s Daniella and I’m a phobic passenger. What’s my phobia? You guessed it: fear of flying.
My fear’s so intense I take a dose of clonazepam half an hour before boarding. I also pin a medal of the Virgin Mary to my pants and pray the rosary twice during the flight, for a total of 100 Hail Mary’s.
The first rosary begins right when the plane speeds up for takeoff. The second, during the approach and landing, which is when half of the aviation fatalities happen, or so I’ve read.
I resorted to clonazepam after a flight to Colombia. Here’s what happened: just when the plane was about to touch down in Bogota, the engine revved up mightily as the plane climbed back up and circled around before actually landing. I was so afraid I held the hand of the passenger next to me.
The worst part? All this and the pilot said zilch! Dear pilot, don’t you ever do that. As captain, you must always project — immediately please — your reassuring voice when anything out of the ordinary happens. I nearly fainted. Even though holding the hand of the nice man on the next seat helped, he too was pretty darn scared.
The case was quite different when I held a nice lady’s hand during a final approach to the San Diego airport. She was as calm and collected as if she was gently swinging in a hammock under a palm tree.
There was a heavy storm complete with thunder and lightning and the aircraft was shaking more than a washing machine before it breaks forever. I, frozen and whimpering, took the barf bag from the seat pocket and started to breathe into it.
“There, there, my husband’s the captain,” she said to me reassuringly. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. The systems these days are so perfect the airplane could literally land itself.” She let me hold her hand until touching down. (Is it true btw? Can commercial airplanes really land themselves?)
I’m aware my fear of flying’s irrational. For one, I don’t fear death per se, but my kids suffering because I died. Plus the likelihood of a crash or accident is minuscule. Actually, I’ve read the most dangerous part of the journey would be the car ride to and from the airport. It makes no sense, then, that, in the car, I can sleep like a baby, while, on an airplane, I manage to relax a bit only if I take a full dose of meds.
If I may, dear captain, I’d like to offer a few pointers, tiny things you could do that would make a huge difference:
1- Please, never forget to introduce yourself with great confidence. Passengers with a fear of flying need convincing that you can fly a 90,000-pound winged object in your sleep.
2- If there’s any turbulence, don’t just turn on the fasten seatbelt sign. Say SOMETHING, like, “We’re just going through a bit of choppy air so I’ve turned on the seatbelt sign for safety. I’ll be turning it off real soon.”
3- Be especially communicative and reassuring if a plane crash hasn’t been in the news for a long time. To me, it feels we’re due for one. Morbid and illogical, I know!
There’s one last thing I’d like you to know, I love it when the pilot stands outside the cockpit as we exit the plane. I love to pause on my way out, make piercing eye contact and thank you for getting me safely back on land.
Were it not inappropriate, I’d give you a kiss and a big tight hug to show my infinite gratitude and relief to be on solid ground and not 35,000 feet up in the air.
I hope this letter has given you some insight into passengers like me and that you give my suggestions serious consideration.
🎧 Listen to my read of the letter on YouTube: Fear of Flying