How to Overcome a Fear of Flying

National Geographic Traveler editor at large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips.

Here’s his latest advice:

Reader Question: I’ve developed a fear of flying. What should I do?

My Answer: About one out of every four people has some level of aerophobia, and an estimated 10 percent of travelers have a more severe case, which could ground them permanently.

Fortunately, coping strategies do exist. British Airways offers the long-running “fear of flying” clinics, in operation for three decades.

Led by working pilots and cabin crew, “Flying With Confidence” gives a primer on the basics of flying, with a special emphasis on safety features. Participants then visit a parked plane, and 98 percent opt to take a graduation flight. (Cost is between $315 and $475, depending on the airport.)

Stateside, Soar’s courses range from a class on DVD to a two-hour counseling session with Captain Tom Bunn, a pilot and licensed therapist. No one can guarantee such classes will zap fears, but Soar sessions promise money back “if you’re unhappy with the improvement.”

You can use the refund to visit a psychologist—another effective method of overcoming aerophobia.

Christopher Elliott is Traveler magazine’s consumer advocate and pens the “Problem Solved” column for the magazine (this exchange appeared in the February 2015 issue). Follow Christopher’s story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.

Do you have a burning travel question? Share it with us in the comments section below for a chance to appear in Traveler magazine.


  1. Roxanne Southers
    Ardmore Oklahoma
    May 12, 2015, 12:30 am

    I have been flying for most of my life and have flown well over a hundred times. A few yrs ago I was on a flight from Florida back to Oklahoma and we flew through a storm that was a remnant of a tropical storm that was moving out of the Gulf area and also dissipating and the plane dropped for what seemed like an eternity. I thought that we were crashing, there was an incredible panic aboard the aircraft. I am now scared. I have flown since but almost have a panic attack at the least amount of turbulance and I have to fly again in a few days.

  2. Capt Tom Bunn LCSW
    February 17, 2015, 5:47 pm

    Hi Christopher,
    Thanks for mentioning us, but you don’t seem to be aware that the SOAR program is so advanced and so effective people don’t ask for a refund.

    Anyone seeking help should read to protect themselves from disappointment or psychological damage.