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How to manage a fear of flying if you are an expat

By February 11, 2019October 3rd, 2023FinGlobal

How to manage a fear of flying if you are an expat

February 11, 2019


Expats often jump on and jump off planes as if they’re catching a local bus. Flying is just part of the package if you are an expat. But what happens if you one of the many people who feel anxiety about flying or are afraid to fly? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Aviophobia (fear of flying) is one of the most common phobias and can affect anything from 2.5% to 6.5% of the general population. If you are anxious about flying, then these tips might help you feel more at ease.

Common fears about flying

According to a study by the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company, women are twice as likely as men to experience fear of flying. Of the people afraid to fly, 73% were afraid of mechanical problems occurring during flight, 62% were afraid of being on a flight during bad weather, 36% were afraid of mechanical problems on the ground, 36% were afraid of flying at night and 33% were afraid of flying over a body of water.

Combatting the fear of flying

  • Take the logical approach

Learning the facts about airline safety can help replace irrational fears and anxiety with a calmer mindset based on facts about airline industry safety. The first thing to do if you are afraid of flying is to look at the statistics. Flying is 200 times safer than driving and you only have a 1 in 11 million chance of being involved in an airplane crash according to the Federal Aviation Administration. In addition, according to the Aviation Safety Network (ASN), in the past two decades, aviation deaths around the world have been steadily falling. It says that the accident rate is one fatal passenger flight accident per 7,360,000 flights. And 2017 was deemed to be one of the safest on record for commercial air travel.

  • Recognise that discomfort is no danger

Anxious flyers are often terrified of turbulence. When the safety belt light comes on, anxious flyers immediately begin to worry about the structural integrity of the plane. The anxious human brain often recognises discomfort as danger. While turbulence can be uncomfortable, it is a very normal part of flying and it can be helpful for expats who struggle with it to read up on the science behind it – so they can understand that the bumps aren’t life-threatening. All turbulence is caused by nature and is perfectly safe, because the aircraft is built to withstand even the most severe turbulence. If you have your seatbelt on, you are always perfectly safe.

  • Speak up

The cabin crew are there to reassure you. Let the crew know immediately you board that you are anxious about flying and they will usually keep a special eye on you throughout your journey. The crew are the experts about what is happening during the flight and if you are anxious about certain sounds or turbulence, asking their advice about what is going on will go a long way to ensuring you feel more relaxed.

  • Drink water

Drinking alcohol on board a flight can often intensify your anxiety and your feelings about loss of control. Rather stick to water or fruit juice in order to keep your mind clear. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable is also helpful for controlling anxiety, so snack on your favourite things in order to keep your mood calm.

  • Learn a relaxation technique

There are many ways you can learn to relax – from practising meditation to listening to soothing music. One of the simplest ways is focusing on your breath. It’s impossible to panic when you are in control of your breathing. If you feel yourself starting to get anxious, inhale for four seconds and exhale for four seconds to calm your breathing down.


If you suffer from Aviophobia, don’t try to conquer it on a long-haul flight to Australia. Rather experiment with short haul flights. Phobias can be challenging to conquer but persistence and perseverance will help you to overcome them.

If you are a South African living or moving abroad and would like to know more about how you can maximise your finances through financial emigration from South Africa, accessing your South African retirement annuity and our tailor-made tax solutions for South Africans around the world, contact FinGlobal today.

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