Nothing to fear [while flying], but fear itself.
Fear of flying is one of the most common phobias around. In fact, 20% of the population says that fear of flying inhibits their work and social lives. Sensing when passengers are anxious to fly and helping relieve some of that stress can help them have a better flying experience all around. Knowing the signs and how to address their stress is essential to the work of flight crewmembers. Below are strategies to help passengers combat this fear and calm them down while flying.
Leave the stats at home.
Sure, we all know that the likelihood of an aircraft crash is only 1 in 11 million or that the most dangerous part of flying is the drive to and from the airport, but this won’t help calm down an anxious flyer. More than likely, they already know and understand these statistics, yet the fear still exists. Something else you can tell them is how skilled the pilots (in most cases, you) are. Tell them how long you have been flying, how many smooth flights you’ve personally performed, how many flight hours you have, etc. A large part of the fear of flying comes from the lack of control in the situation. Knowing the pilot’s/your skill level can considerably calm down some of the nerves and anxious feelings the passenger has.
Explain safety testing and procedures.
Not only does the airplane undergo extreme safety testing before it ever leaves the manufacturer, there are also safety checks and procedures before the plane leaves the runway. Calmly explain all the safety measures your maintenance crew and you perform to ensure a safe flight. If there’s time, show them the pre-flight checklist and go over pre-flight procedures to help them understand just how many different eyes go through the aircraft and verify every last bolt is in place.
The last thing an anxious person needs is someone who comes off as though they have no idea how they could be afraid of something so safe as flying. Rather than shove only safety statistics at them, also share your own experiences of flying. If you ever had fears or apprehensions, share those moments. If you have any tips on how you overcame your fears, give them some advice. When the passenger can relate to you and see how relaxed you are in this environment, they will then relax too. It may not help cure the phobia completely, but it will be one step closer to conquering their anxieties.
Try to keep the customer’s mind busy with other thoughts. Have a conversation about their family life or what they do for a living. Continue talking (without compromising your own ability to perform in-flight duties) so they can focus on other thoughts. The less they think about potential risks and dangers while flying, the less likely they will feel overwhelmed by their thoughts in the air.
Calming down passengers isn’t the easiest task, but it can be easier when you have a few tricks up your sleeve. Alleviating some stress and suppressing these fearful emotions for the passengers can create a calmer and noticeably more enjoyable flight experience for everyone. Going the extra mile for a passenger with a flying phobia is not only part of the job, but is frankly just the right thing to do.