How to cope with flight anxiety following Singapore airlines turbulence

Woman experiencing flight anxiety. (Getty Images)
Experts say flight anxiety could be exasperated amongst those with a fear of flying following the Singapore Airlines incident. (Getty Images)

A spotlight has been thrown on the dangers of turbulence yesterday after Singapore Airlines announced a passenger died on board a flight and 71 others were also injured, six of whom are in critical condition.

It marks one of the worst turbulence incidents in recent years, which will no doubt have had an impact on those who already suffer from a fear of flying.

According to Anxiety UK the fear of flying, also known as aerophobia, is an excessive worry about air travel.

It is believed to affect one in ten of the population, however some studies suggest that it impacts many more.

Fear of flying can be linked to the fear of airplanes or it could be an aspect of other psychological problems such as panic attacks, claustrophobia or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Those who experience a fear of flying often experience increased worry, anxiety and panic attacks at the thought of flying and as a result many will avoid air travel completely.

According to chartered psychologist Dr Mark Rackley the Singapore Airlines incident, will likely have made some people's worst fears about flying a reality.

"For people who have anxiety around flying, they already predict and prepare for worst case scenarios," he explains.

"The reality is, in most cases, that never happens and so there is no actual evidence to support the fears that they have.

"But the incident with Singapore Airlines has now provided people with actual evidence that bad things can happen when you fly and you can die as a result."

Woman trying to calm herself on a flight. (Getty Images)
It is believed one in 10 experience a fear of flying. (Getty Images)

Dr Rackley counters that although this is a tragic incident, the reality is that it remains a very rare occurrence.

"However, people who flight anxiety will generalise this incident and use it as evidence that flying as a whole is dangerous and should be avoided," he adds.

"Although this type of thinking is not true, when we think with our feelings, we are guided by the feelings and so this then dictates what we believe, rather than rational thought and evidence."

Flight anxiety occurs because we associate flying with feeling of fear and threat.

"The brain then associates flying with a feeling of being scared, anxious, worried and panic," explains Dr Rackley.

"When we do that, the brain remembers how we feel about flying and so we have an anxious response when we think about having to fly."

Dr Rackley says our feelings are influenced by how we think, so obviously people who have a fear of flying, having negative, threatening and fearful thoughts about flying.

"They see it as dangerous and possibly life-threatening," he explains. says a fear of flying can present itself in a number of ways, before a flight a person could start to feel anxious and while actually on the flight they could start:

  • Shaking

  • Feeling dizzy

  • Sweating

  • Having palpitations

  • Feeling short of breath

  • Feeling sick

  • Having a panic attack

Woman trying to relax on a plane. (Getty Images)
Experts recommend using the power of rational thought to calm flight nerves. (Getty Images)

If you're feeling more anxious about flying following the Singapore Airlines incident, Dr Rackley recommends trying to change the thoughts that are producing the fears.

"This begins by allowing yourself to challenge your thoughts and change them," he advises. "Using rational thought will help, such as 'what is the evidence that flying is dangerous?' 'Am I exaggerating the risk?' 'Do I take other risks in my life that I don't see as a problem?'"

Dr Rackley also suggest trying to use your rational and not emotional mind.

"The evidence is that the planes are over-engineered and safe modes of transport," he adds.

He also recommends educating yourself around how planes work, turbulence and also flying in general.

"This can help your brain use different information that can calm you down.

If you're still struggling Anxiety UK advises seeking further information and guidance from a GP who will be able to make a formal diagnosis and advise about seeking treatment from a qualified therapist.