Overcoming Fear of Flying – Part 1

There’s a saying that goes a little something like this: “It’s not the destination but the journey that matters.” But what if the journey is your idea of a dream turned into a nightmare? I, and with me many others, suffer from Aviophobia, more commonly known as ‘fear of flying’. 

As soon as I hear the announcement “Please have your boarding pass and identification ready, boarding will start in ten minutes” my heart starts pounding, my hands start sweating and my lungs forget their purpose, making it hard to breathe. Of course I haven’t slept the night before and the probability of catching some zzz’s on the plane are close to zero. It’s unlikely my eyes will even close during the 8 hour flight that’s ahead of me. Every little sound and shake makes me tighten up and clench the armrests until my fingers get numb. To say the least, being up in the air is not my favourite activity.

Sound familiar? I may have some useful tips for you.

Fear of Flying - Flight Attendant KLM tower

Where does Aviophobia come from?

Aviophobia can be a distinct phobia in itself but can also originate from other phobias. The three most common causes for Aviophobia are: Tanathophobia (fear of death, in this case caused by a plane crash) Claustrophobia (fear of confinement) and Acrophobia (fear of heights). There are also cases where the Aviophobia consists of a combination of the above. If you figure out the main cause of your flight anxiety, you’re one step closer to overcoming it!

What can you do?

If you’re anything like me, you won’t let a flight get in the way of seeing the world. I love traveling, but I dread getting on a plane. To make a flight bearable when you haven’t been treated for your Aviophobia, there’s a couple of things you can do.

1. No caffeine
The first thing is staying away from tea and coffee (but also soda). Because of the caffeine in these drinks, often used to ‘wake you up’ in the morning, it is advised not to drink them when you are already experiencing elevated anxiety levels.

Fear of Flying - Flight Attendant KLM

2. Interact
Secondly, keep talking! Keep yourself distracted by talking to your travel partner, the kind stranger next to you or your flight attendant. This keeps you from getting stuck in your own head and feeding your fear with irrational thoughts.

3. Relax
And last but not least: try to relax. I know this is the hardest thing to do, but if you keep your muscles relaxed, you might actually trick your brain into thinking there is nothing to be scared of.

If all these steps fail and somehow you find it impossible to calm yourself down, make sure you download the InBalanZ-app before you take off. This app is your personal breathing-coach and will help you focus on getting a grip on your anxiety attack. (Dutch / Iphone)

What can KLM do for you?

For me, it really helped when I talked to a flight attendant. I was on a KLM flight, going to Texas, US, and had a hard time relaxing. I didn’t want to upset anyone else, so I told the stewardess I might ‘act a little funny’ because I suffered from fear of flying. She immediately comforted me by taking me on a tour around the cabin and the cockpit. I had a little chat with the pilots in which they told me about backup systems and how safe flying actually was. That really helped me calm down a bit. During the rest of the flight, she kept an eye on me, asking if I was OK every couple of hours. I never got her name, but I will always remember how she helped me. (I am not the only one, read this blog about another friendly flight attendant).

Also, if you’re seriously considering overcoming your fear of flying, Stichting Valk is the place for you (NL). They offer specialized help with Aviophobia and other anxiety disorders. They also have an app, that can function as your travel companion, helping you through moments of panic or other uncomfortable situations. Also they are organizing an event May 30-31 called “vliegangstweekend” that might be worth checking out!

Vliegangst KLM stewardess

What will I do?

From now on I’ll be blogging about my personal developments thus taking you along on the journey of overcoming Aviophobia. With this, I hope others will find comfort in my story and that I will inspire you to take action to live a life without fear. I have a vacation planned and will be traveling by plane. What will I do to get to the point I can actually enjoy this flight? Stay tuned and follow every step.

Fear of Flying Timeline Fase 1

Disclaimer: This blog is written from a personal perspective. I am not a health-expert. These are my personal experiences and tips that have worked for me and may be useful to you as well. If you suffer severely from Aviophobia contact an expert for the proper diagnoses and treatment.

Posted by:   Esmee Droog  | 
Join the conversation Show comments

Jan Olav Eriksen

Hi. Lock forward to start travle to USA again to morrow.
Travle with the best airline in the world.

Esmee Droog

Oh wonderful, Jan! Have fun :)!

Justin Tham

My job required me to travel extensively within Asia. Anything more that 2hrs I feel very uncomfortable. I have some bad experience with smaller aircraft especially A320 and B737-800. Of these 2 the latter seems to be better. Sometimes also good/experience captain steer better. B777-300ER is the best thus far. Even A380 can no match the former beast when comes to handling of take off and landing.

Esmee Droog

I find a big steady plane more comfortable, too, Justin. Thank you for your message and I hope your next flight will be a very comfortable one!

Hans Eenhoorn

I found the Fear of Flying-course by Psychologie-magazine very helpful. It really did help me.

Esmee Droog

Thank you for the tip, Hans! Will check it out!


From one with fears to another with fears…..thanks for sharing.
I find flying to Holland more easy than flying “back home” to US!!!
Wonder why?
Looking forward to more helpful hints!!!

Esmee Droog

Hi Rick! I always experience it the other way around, actually! This is clarified in a blog from awhile back, which you can read here: http://klmf.ly/1EDoGke. Hope that answers your question. Thank you for reading and hopefully you will get on a plane without fear some day!

Martina Helling

I usually did not fear to fly being a diplomates daughter we flew a lot, but by getting older it appeared. Last October I had to fly to Germany since my mother suddenly died and I was there for a week. The flight attentants on board and at the airports treated me lovely, cared about may concerns and I “survived”. The most important fact, KLM service is 100% owesome and perfect!

Esmee Droog

Thanks for your message, Martina! Great to hear you had such a lovely experience. It’s very common that people develop fear of flying when they get older. I hope my tips will help you relax on board again!


My fear of flying originated from claustrophobia. I succeeded in overcoming it by deciding that I was not going to avoid flying and by accepting the fact that I am afraid. This might sound strange but I always got on board of a plane thinking “I hope I will not get an anxiety attack this time”. Surprisingly enough the anxiety attacks disappeared the day I thought “ok it’s likely that I get an anxiety attack, but if it happens the worst part last only two minutes and this too will pass”. Since that moment I can fully enjoy each flight I make, so I am looking forward to our KLM flight to Marseille next month! I hope that sharing this experience helps other people overcome their fear too, because you really feel great when you get passed this. Also remember that real courage does not exist without fear, because being afraid and doing it anyway is really courageous!


I flew between Amsterdam and Calgary and had the best flight attendant. She was sitting right in front of us and could tell I was a nervous flyer. She immediately started explaining turbulence as the engines began to start up, and before I knew it we were up in the air! I am so grateful as she made the whole flight relaxing. Thank you KLM!

Esmee Droog

What a wonderful story, Monika! I always love hearing other ‘succes-stories’. We should all be able to fly without fear!

Gordon Irwine

As a clinical Hypnotherapist I have had 100% success with flying phobia’s. A clinical Hypnotherapist will overlay your fears or phobia with new and more pleasant mind map allowing the flight to be a pleasure and not the 2 or 3 week night mare that most people have, suffering the dread of getting on the plane. Enjoy.

Esmee Droog

That’s very interesting, Gordon! I hope lots of people benefit from your treatments!


Hi Gordon

Can you recommend anyone in the UK?



Try Virtual Jet Centre in Devon – 100% success!

Capt Tom Bunn, MSW, LCSW

To the moderator (not to be published). I see my post is still awaiting moderation. Whatever you decide to do with the post, KLM should wake up and recognize that the people who run VALK, though they do (and have done for years) research on fear of flying, none of it has amounted to anything of value.

I’ve been doing this work for over thirty years. All that time, we were invited to VALK conferences; we never went because it was so obvious that they were not dealing with the real work experience of people who have trouble with flying and with how to help them.

While VALK was still struggle – and they still are – we were helping people very effectively. The methods developed in the SOAR program work beautifully. To get a sense of this, take a look at the reviews of my book, “SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying” on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0762788003/ref=s9_psimh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=1NA1YX1KDY3JW218N6HW&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2079475242&pf_rd_i=desktop

Or just search Amazon for “SOAR Bunn”

Please consider that while KLM has offered nothing of value to anxious fliers, Ibera has presented genuinely effective help. See: http://love2fly.iberia.com/fearless-flying/

Yours truly,
Captain Tom Bunn MSW, LCSW

Esmee Droog

Thank you for your message Tom, but I have to politely disagree with you about KLM. In the short amount of time I have worked here, they have done so much for my flight anxiety, which I will address in upcoming blogs. Valk is a seperate organization, though worth mentioning, not my choice of ‘treatment’. And I do, as employee of KLM now, want to help others overcome their fear.

I wish you all the best with your own fear of flying company.

Roseli Aparecida Wostog

Hello.KLM (Blog).
Post Comment Overcoming Fear of Flying – Part 1.
Great. Oh, Lovely.
Good everning. Thankyou.
Roseli A Wostog. Brazil.

Esmee Droog

Thank you for your message, Roseli!

Capt Tom Bunn, MSW, LCSW

Though your intent is to help people overcome fear of flying, if you give advice that is flawed, if anxious fliers rely on it – see it endorsed by KLM – and have bad results, they may be psychologically damaged; they may believe they are hopeless.

The problem is advice to control anxiety via breathing exercises. Breathing exercises are not effective, and may be counterproductive.

Here is research on that, including research by David, Barlow, the best-known cognitive therapist in the U.S.

Barlow: “. . . any behavior that . . . enables avoidance of or distraction from the panic sensation is maladaptive . . . because it is an attempt to keep the patient ‘safe’ from a false threat (i.e., panic symptoms, high anxiety) . . . . use of breathing retraining . . . is discouraged and is maladaptive.” REFERENCE: Barlow, D., (20014) Anxiety and its Disorders: The Nature and Treatment of Anxiety and Panic, New York: Guilford.

In addition, Schmidt, et al: “This study suggests that . . . diaphragmatic breathing does not yield any clear benefits . . . . patients receiving BR exhibited trends toward poorer end state functioning on both self and clinician rated measures . . . “We have suggested that therapists refrain from the use of respiratory-control techniques as a means for coping with or managing anxiety.” REFERENCE: Schmidt, N., Woolaway-Bickel, K., Trakowski, J. et al. (2000). Dismantling cognitive-behavioural treatment for panic disorder: Questioning the utility of breathing retraining. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(3), 417-424


⬆️ Deze man denkt dat hij alles weet!


I had this problem till last year before I took a flight to Amsterdam with Delta and its vanished while returning back with KLM to Abudhabi and Mumbai. Today I can fly with 95% happy and 5% of discomfort only. Will share my experience in the next post

Marlin Lehmann

Hi Esmee!

Thank you so much for your posts, this has helped a lot! I see myself at the very same point like you was, I absolutely feel the same, I am able to relate every word you say because I struggle with the same. Your stories have been such a great help for me, I now feel safer when flying because I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.
Esmee, this was so helpful and thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

KLM passenger Marlin from Munich


What a nice article and surely recognizable for my husband who hasn’t flown for over 15 years. The Valk course didn’t help him 15 years ago, but now he is treated by a NLP treatment (neuro-linguistic programming) which changes your negative mindset. After a session via skype he cannot ‘find’ his horror film in his head anymore and actually wants to try flying again. This year we are going to the USA for the first time as a family!!! Fingers crossed :-).


Ofcourse with KLM!!


good evening

There are courses against fear of flying by KLM at schipol?
where I can look?


Hi everyone,

I have fear of flying and I have the first diagnostic appointment to start with Valk tomorrow (still contemplating their very high treatment costs :-( ). Can someone please suggest if Valk is indeed worth it (for getting rid of anxiety and fear of flying), or is there any other recommended therapist? I would really prefer something inside Amsterdam and based on the discussion above, if Valk is not worth it, then I will not start with them. I just need to make the decision asap, so would be grateful for your inputs.

Also, what program is offered by KLM?

Thank you for your help!


Our experts give you some tips that will help you get over your fear. Our aim is for you to take that holidays or business trip and actually enjoy it.

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