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Help! Terrible flying phobia for a member of the family!

Suggestions on what can be done about having a terrible fear f flying phobia. Jeopardizing our trip next year possibly!

Posted by
7906 posts

I am not a Psych, but you likely need to have the individual go to an expert for counseling.

I will say that my wife had moderate phobia regarding going underground on a subway or great heights, but she overcame the first by closing her eyes while underground.
Also, she avoided going up to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but still managed to handle the lower area.

Posted by
4668 posts

If it is to this degree, then professional help is needed.
For mild discomfort, I have used anxiety meds and I always sit on the aisle. If I am not looking out the window, I can pretend I am just on a bus.

Posted by
14254 posts

There are programs for those with a fear of flying both inperson and online. They are kind of expensive but they should enroll now. Depending on where they live there may be a therapist locally who has expertise in this area. Definitely they should start now instead of waiting until the later.

Without knowing the situation, I would plan the trip and be ready to go without the person that has a fear of flying. Is that possible?

I'll add that I have a fear of heights but it would not impact a whole trip and I don't let it impact others' plans and to me this is not as serious as a fear of flying. I'm fine on a plane and yes, I can look out the window.

Posted by
525 posts

Some airports offer programs for people with anxiety about flying or other special needs. Give them a call or check their website. In the case of the MInneapolis airport, various services that may be of help are listed in their “Accessibility” section.

Posted by
4 posts

Pam ; Without knowing the situation, I would plan the trip and be ready to go without the person that has a fear of flying. Is that possible?

This is not an option. We will not go to Italy without my wife?

Posted by
184 posts

In the past I was more fearful of flying than I am currently. Back when I had younger eyes I did cross-stitch as a distraction. These days, I don't feel as fearful, but I read a mystery. Keeps my mind occupied. However, I was never so fearful that it kept me from flying. As recommended previously, I would suggest your potential travel partner consider an organized program to help alleviate fear of flying. Or if one is not available in your area, a few sessions with a mental health professional. It cannot be fun to have the desire to travel and have a fear of travel by air.

Best wishes that you can all travel comfortably together!

Traveler Girl

Posted by
11505 posts

Has she ever flown?

Comments to seek professional help are on point.

Posted by
922 posts

Maybe she can talk with her primary care doctor about prescription or OTC medicines that can help her relax on the flight?

Posted by
4668 posts

Is the person willing to seek help? These things are treatable, but only if they are willing.
It would be a shame to do all the planning and then have to cancel and possibly lose a considerable sum. So, help them get started on a treatment plan, and purchase travel insurance with a "cancel for any reason" rider.

Posted by
14254 posts

"This is not an option. We will not go to Italy without my wife?"

I understand your choices are what will work for you as a couple and we all get to decide how we travel. I don't want you to think I am mean, but .... if there are issues that make it impossible to travel and others want to go to Italy, at some point a solo trip might want to be considered.

Do something different with her, road trip, etc, but if you want to go to Italy and if the therapy doesn't help with her comfort level, then perhaps consider a different approach. There may be places she wants to go that you don't want to visit.

My disclaimer to this is that I am a solo traveler. I am single and I want to go places. My family is not as much in to travel as I am and TBH at this point after having done many solo trips I prefer it. I realized a long time ago that if I wanted to see things I needed to go ahead and go. There are couples who travel separately as they have different interests and goals.

editing to add: I just read your other thread about taking your daughter and son on a graduation trip for your daughter. I hope things will work out.

Posted by
23471 posts

Simply put --- YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP -- And time is short. You may have assistance via your local airport of air lines. For years United in Denver had a program. You might ask your GP is there is a local specialist on this subject. Treatment could take awhile. Good luck.

Posted by
32 posts

It is possible to work with but definitely requires help. Is your wife wanting to go? Okay once you get there?

My wife was/is severely phobic of flying. We only took driving vacations for a long time. Things that helped: she really was motivated to talk to someone because she really wanted to go to Europe; and talking to her primary care doctor to get a referral and an anti-anxiety prescription. She still doesn't like flying but will. It's not great, especially if we have turbulence, but we manage.

Posted by
369 posts

BIL got sent to Israel with family many years ago for work. Had a terrible time flying. Doctor prescribed meds and that helped.

I am an uncomfortable flyer. Don’t like turbulence at all. But I tell myself there are 45,000 flights in the US (per FAA stats) every day and I’ve already been on a couple of the worst ones and I survived. There are a lot more more logical things I could mention, but if she is that afraid, they won’t matter.

I highly recommend a professional. You all have to go to Italy! Time to start preparing is now.

Good luck!

Posted by
15693 posts

Some airlines offer Fear of Flying programs taught by both a psychologist and a pilot. The final aspect of the program is an actual flight.

You might want to see if any of the airlines near your closest airport have these programs.

Depending on the severity of her fear, there are also online programs that might help.

However, consulting with a professional knowledgable about fear of flying or phobias in general would be something high up on my list.

Posted by
1837 posts

Is a transatlantic cruise an option?

Seems like there are limited possibilities:

  1. Your wife overcomes her phobia (either on her own or with professional help) and flies.
  2. You travel by a different mode of transportation.
  3. You travel without your wife.
  4. You don't travel.

Hard to come up with any other choices. Good luck!

Posted by
20 posts

I share your wife's fears...and usually just suffer through it to get to Europe. I try to fly non-stop and try to be as comfortable as possible (including using our travel points for a business class seat). Since this most recent trip was not non-stop, I decided to talk with my dr...who prescribed medication. Wow...what a difference it made for me. (Only downside is I could not enjoy my inflight or preflight champagne, lol). I hope your wife finds the support she needs so she doesn't miss out on a fabulous trip with you.

Posted by
396 posts

At the risk of sounding like a nut case: take a look at couple of visits to a hypnotist. I have a lot of reasons for this suggestion but for now let me just say that it really works well for fear issues. Not something I would have believed in until I saw it work. J

Posted by
11505 posts

Yes, my wife has flown 4-5 times before.

How long of a flight? How long ago? Was she in panic attack mode the entire flight or just 'kiss the ground' happy to be off the plane.

Is the fear because of being so far from the ground, or more of a claustrophobia of being crowded in a metal tube?

Whatever the situation, if some 'fear of flying' program is not readily available, professional help is really the answer.

Hope it works out

Posted by
5 posts

Anti anxiety meds. And perhaps go on a short domestic trip to start working through the phobia so a big international flight (or flights) won’t feel so overwhelming.

Posted by
943 posts

As a retired marriage and family therapist, I did treat several individuals for "fear of flying" (phobia) issues. Anti-anxiety medications in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral counseling can be very effective. If medication is deemed necessary, she should consult with a psychiatrist for those meds, not her primary care physician. Psychiatrists treat anxiety/phobic conditions daily and usually are the best fit. Also, if medication is prescribed, it is advisable to "take it out for a spin" before using it first on the flights. She should use it for a few days when she does not have to leave the house or perform tasks which might result in injury--no driving, either. Side-effects, no effect, length of effect, etc. need to be known variables. The therapist will introduce her to negative-thought stopping, model it and have her practice while in session with "homework" to practice outside of sessions. Negative-thought stopping is not easy. Only your wife can get inside her head to turn those thoughts around. She's already had a head start with her anxiety-producing thoughts that she will need to combat. She will need to use negative-thought stopping while taking the medication for the best results. She will have to want to do all that I have mentioned (compliance)/psychological mindfulness). Pressure for her to do what I have suggested may only increase her anxiety.

If there are issues specific to her fear of flying, e.g. she/a loved one/acquaintance was injured during a flight, etc., then those issues would need to be addressed and likely would result in the need for more sessions. In general, without a complicated history, it is not unusual for treatment to be 4-6 sessions.
Finally, the return flight home generally has the tendency for increased anxiety since in order to return home, she will have to fly back from Italy. It is usually helpful to research an alternative route home such as a cruise. Even though that's less likely it is a Plan B which usually reduces anxiety--no one feels calm when there is no alternative.
Additionally, support from you and your family is necessary without the suggestion that you will be disappointed if she does not adhere to what you and others want from her.

I wish your wife hard work--no luck is involved. It is work.

Posted by
7013 posts

Seems like there are limited possibilities:

Your wife overcomes her phobia (either on her own or with professional help) and flies.
You travel by a different mode of transportation.
You travel without your wife.
You don't travel.

I think Lane said it best. You do have options, and you just have to choose the right one for you.