Who’s afraid of airplanes?
The fear of flying is curable. We have tested the anti-stress workshop of Air France.
In 2014, the number of people dying on airplanes has been as high as ever: 1300. But in France only, 3200 people have died in traffic in the same year. The health risks of flying are in steady decrease: The probability for every passenger of dying during a flight has diminished from 1: 138.000 in 1970 to 1:2.349.000 in 2014.
It’s true that the airplane is the safest means of transport. But those who are scared of flying are immune to these arguments. Every time they enter a plane their heart beats faster, they get sick, they are unable to talk, their body seems to freeze and they start imagining their end on that plane. This is what William and Philippe, who are CEOs, and Nicolas, who is a student, describe in their testimonies at the Air France anti-stress workshop.
The French company is a pioneer on the field. From the mid-nineties,Air France specialists have started working on the subject as the democratization of aviation (between 1970 and today, the annual number of passengers had risen from 300 million to 3 billion) has left behind too many traumatized persons.
The need for controlThe air host and psychologist Philippe Goeury is one of the founding fathers of the programme. He welcomes the participants of the workshop for a 45 minutes interview. «The fear of flying has multiple causes, he explains. « Some are scared because they don’t know anything about it, others feel as if they know too much. Many of our clients are engineers. Others are agoraphobic or hyper-sensitive to noise and smells. » ”A common feature? « Up to 80% of them have a strong need to control. »
More surprisingly, many people suddenly develop a fear of flying after a trauma such as « a stepfather who treats their mother with violence», or after a significant event such as a marriage or a childbirth. Events such as 9/11, « one of our classics», and the general anxiety due to terrorist attacks are further explanatory factors.
A 300-kilometres-glide with all engines offAfter the first step of identifying the individual causes for their phobia, the participants spend one day in the anti-stress centre of Air France in Roissy. During the first part of the workshop, a sophrologist, a member of staff and a pilot demystify the universe of aviation. The participants learn that air pockets don’t exist, that a certain amount of redundancies is available in case of malfunctions and that an airplane which has lost its engines at a height of 10 kilometres can glide for 300 kilometres and thus easily find a landing spot.
The next step is the simulator. Different situations are addressed such as a breakdown of the engines, a landing in foggy and stormy weather and a sudden take off. One of the participants leaves the room because the alarm signal seems too realistic. The others are reassured by the pilot’s reaction to these challenging situations.
« I felt really calm in the simulator. And I’m really looking forward to seeing my progress during my next flight», says Philippe. He will have the option of benefiting from special care from the cabin crew. In case of an unsatisfying result, Air France will provide for the necessary follow-up.
Air France claims an overall success rate of 95% with varying degrees in progress: Some clients witness a big improvement of their stress level while flying, others are completely deprived of their fear.
For more informationWorkshop fee: €650 Euros
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Crédits photo : Pluris Air France