Flying is an essential part of travel to many places,but what if you or your clients are terrified of taking to the skies? Abigail Healy speaks to two agents on Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Without Fear course to find out if it can help both personally and when selling to customers.
Lorna McDowell, a business travel consultant at Eton Travel Group in Wokingham, says her fear of flying is born out of “the anxiety of it all”.
“Flying is a military operation for me – I have to be there with lots of time to spare. It’s also the ‘not knowing’ – that scientific side of things where I think ‘how does that massive thing stay in the air?’ and what is going on when you hit major turbulence.”
While McDowell does fly – “you sort of have to when you work in travel” – she says she went on Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Without Fear course in the hope that she would feel more in control when getting on a plane and be able to relax.
She says the course offered information on the technical side of flying that helped her to feel more confident about stepping onboard an aircraft.
“The pilot explained the training they go through and details such as how the engines and wings work.”
But the psychological aspect of the course also gave McDowell some useful pointers.
“The psychologist explained how you can calm yourself down using breathing techniques. She told us the trick of putting an elastic band around your wrist that you snap if you feel your thoughts running away – it brings you back to the present and is a useful tip for everyday life – not just when flying.”
At the end of the course, McDowell and the other course participants boarded an aircraft and took off for a short flight to Southampton.
“When we got off the plane, we were all chatting and lots of us were saying we didn’t even notice some of the turbulence. The pilot made it all seem so normal – he was even worried we might not get any turbulence, so when we did he came over the tannoy saying: “Phew – there’s some of that sexy turbulence!” He made a joke of lots of things, so it made us relax and see that turbulence wasn’t a rare occurrence. It happens all the time.”
She says the cabin crew were really attentive too. “They came round to check we were all OK throughout the flight. It was reassuring to hear about all the training they go through and that they undergo regular questioning before boarding flights about safety and medical procedures.”
McDowell says the course has given her lots of ways to approach her next flight differently.
“Next time I fly, I’ll use the relaxation techniques we learnt and if we hit a bumpy patch, I’ll have that pilot’s voice in the back of my head saying “sexy turbulence” – that will definitely make me feel better,” she laughs.