Air Passengers Increasingly Facing Air Travel Stress

by VR Sreeraman on Nov 7 2007 4:46 PM

Passengers travelling via air are susceptible to a new kind of travel bug that starts working the moment one books the ticket for that dream holiday, a psychologist has claimed.

Dr Bryan Burke, a specialist in the fear of flying, who works at the Anxiety Treatment Unit in Sydney, says that with the huge number of people jetting these days, any one of us can suffer from air travel stress, a form of anxiety caused by heightened security and all the hassles involved in being a passenger.

"It's the long lines at check-in, the crowding, the enhanced security procedures, the lack of predictability often in what's going to happen between arriving at the airport and getting to the plane ... all the delays and all that sort of stuff, that anybody is subjected to," the NZPA quoted him, as saying.

He added that for one third of the world's population the idea of being up in the air in an aeroplane triggers damp paws and a faster heart beat. He says that fear can fluctuate from mild apprehension through to total avoidance.

The symptoms of a person suffering from air travel stress are generally triggered by some other factors such as “claustrophobia, panic attacks, stress overload, traumatic experiences associated with flying or worriers.”

"Our body senses mislead us, our balance sense amplifies so it seems like we are falling," he said.

Therefore, Dr Burke works at controlling these thought processes by training clients with the facts about flying in a program his centre conducts.

"(It includes) how planes fly, what keeps them in the air, all of the systems that are in place to make them as safe as possible, videos of planes, a presentation from a pilot and a meteorologist, so they are beginning to understand what happens," he said.

He added that it is "absolutely critical" to teach people ways of "controlling their crazy thinking and learning how to relax".

After teaching his clients how to deal with feelings of anxiety, he takes the next step of getting them up in the air.

"I gradually introduce them to planes and flying until the last phase of the program is in fact to take a flight with them,” he said.

Dr Burke said that people who suffer some fear need to be conscious of these upsetting thoughts and challenge them and deal with them, and use physical relaxation techniques.

However, he warned, "It's not a magic pill, it's not a quick fix. People have to learn the techniques and apply them".