Monday, 27 November 2017

Conquering My Fear Of Flying With Easyjet

A few months back, I received an email from Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos offering me the incredible opportunity to visit them on an all expenses paid trip.

The thought of the white sandy beaches, crystal blue seas and days in the sun made me giddy with excitement the second I read the email...but I soon came back down to earth with a bump, and the way I always do whenever these travel opportunities come up...with a "thank you but I won't be able to come" email.

Not because I had other commitments, not because I didn't want to (I SO desperately wanted to)...but because I was too afraid of flying.

This wasn't the first travel opportunity I turned down because of my fear, and it wasn't the last either.

My fear was just too intense to even consider agreeing to a travel review abroad.

When people ask me "What triggered your fear of flying?" I find it hard to pinpoint any one specific moment in time that I became afraid.

I feel as though the fear was somehow always there.

I didn't set foot on a plane until I was 21...and before the day of the flight came around, I already knew I was terrified to get on it.

I was flying to Venezuela for my cousins was an almost 11 hour flight, and the thought of not being able to get off if I didn't like it...of being so unnaturally high off the ground...of having a panic attack mid flight...all of it swam around in my head and made me feel sick.

I had a panic attack the night before, and again on the morning of the flight.

I think the only thing that stopped me having one during was the fact that there were so many people in our party on the flight too, so the time passed quickly.

The next time I took a flight was to the USA...somewhere I'd wanted to visit all of my life. I was so excited to take that trip, but yet I almost didn't make it. I was flying with a friend and we arrived at Manchester airport late...we were told our seats were not together, and I had yet another panic attack. I refused to board the plane. I knew I wouldn't be able handle my fear if I was sitting with a total stranger.

The airline agreed to upgrade us and we were moved to business class, so that we could sit together....the check in girl ran us through security and on to the plane so there was no going back but I was so scared.

My next flight was a few years later, to do a short nannying job in Alcudia...I cried all the way to the airport, I cried in the check in queue, and I cried on board. And I spent the whole week in Alcudia terrified of flying home.

And then finally, a few years later, I took a flight to Amsterdam. It was only an hour long flight. It should have been a breeze compared to the long haul flights I'd done...but it was the worst of the lot. I hated every second of it. I had a panic attack during take off. I was with my abusive ex partner at the time, and he refused to comfort me or try to calm me down. He told me I was an idiot and ignored me (standard) so I ended up being looked after by the random stranger on my right who gave me tissues and told me it would be fine.

It was fine, of course. Nothing out of the ordinary happened on that flight, but I knew my fear had just become too much to handle...I spent the whole week in Amsterdam having panic attacks with fear at the thought of the flight home, and as I sat on that return flight I promised myself that I'd never put myself through it again. That I'd never set foot back on a plane.

And I didn't...that was 10 years ago, and I haven't set foot back on a plane. I've found different ways to take holidays and see the world...I've taken ferries to Spain, I've been on the Eurostar to Disneyland Paris, I've been on coach holidays and of course I've discovered the joy of cruise holidays.

But since the boys came along...I've started to feel that I want more freedom.

They are only children for a short time, and there's so much of the world that I want to see with much I want to show them and share with much I want us to discover many amazing memories waiting to be made.

And so much of those things lie in parts of the world that are too difficult to reach in any other way than flying.

I'm tired of letting fear control me. I'm scared of so many things in life...heights, spiders, death, clowns, the dark...and so many other things, it would be quicker to name what I'm not afraid of! And it's exhausting feeling so frightened by so many different things.

I want my freedom back. I want control back.

And so...when I stumbled across the Easyjet Fearless Flyer course online, I decided it was something I should try.

When I read into what the course involved and realised that an experience flight was part of it, I almost backed out...the thought of agreeing to get on a plane made my heart race...but I signed up anyway.

I told myself it was months away, and that it'd all be fine.

As the date of the course crept closer, I felt incredibly nervous.

Until finally, it was time.

The first part of the course was held at a hotel in Bristol (the courses are run in various parts of the country), and was 3 hours long.

The first thing that surprised me when I arrived was just how many people were there. I had expected that there would be maybe 10 of reality there were around 70.

70 other people...just like me. Who all looked normal. Who were all terrified of flying too.

All for different reasons, all with different experiences...but all with the same basic fear.

And somehow, that felt reassuring.

I'm so used to getting the standard (and slightly irritating) response of "Oh you're scared of flying? I LOVE flying!" whenever my fear is mentioned that I guess I felt as though I was a little bit odd for feeling the way I to stand in a room full of people who all feel the same way feels comforting.

The ground course was led by Lawrence Leyton  - and I have to say, he was very engaging from the start.

He spoke to us about fear and how the brain interprets it, which was fascinating in itself and at times pretty funny!

We had a talk from an Easyjet pilot, Howard Taylor, who walked us through all of the common fears and worries that people have, explaining everything in detail .... this covered all sorts of things from turbulence and what happens if an engine fails.

We then had a Q & A session with the pilot were all manner of questions from the audience were answered so that any niggling fears could be eased.

After that, we had a talk from a former phobic named Baz. This was one of the parts I found most helpful of all. Baz is a 70+ year old man who was terrified of flying for his whole life, until he finally took the Easyjet course...ever since he has been able to fly all over the place and even voluntarily takes the Easyjet Fearless Flyer flights to help other phobics combat their fear. He was so engaging and inspiring, and I honestly think that this talk helped me to realise that I COULD beat this fear.

After a 15 minute tea break, we returned to be given some practical help from Laurence...he walked us through a number of techniques for dealing with feelings of panic and anxiety, all of which I have used not only on the experience flight but in other moments of panic too...all of which have been so helpful.

At the end of the course I was feeling a little annoyed with myself as I had a niggling question worrying me that I hadn't felt brave enough to ask during the pilots Q & A...on my way out I noticed a man wearing a pilots uniform so I asked if I could ask him my question and he was so accommodating. He sat me down with him, I asked my question ("What happens if the cabin pressure fails? Do all we suffocate instantly?!") and he talked me through exactly what would long it would take them to reach a safe level for flying to allow people to breathe without their oxygen masks, and how unlikely it was to reach that point due to the warnings they would recieve in the cockpit.

 I was so grateful for how patient and understanding he was...he didnt make me feel at all silly, and he took his time to explain everything and make sure I felt happy with the answer.

And that was it! After the course was over, we went off on our way....ready to meet again the next for the experience flight!

I have to say, another thing I found very helpful was that the other people on the course were very friendly and I got chatting to a girl sitting next to me named Claire...we added each other on Facebook so we could get in touch if either of us panicked about the flight, which I think was a big help too as it meant there was someone to spur us on.

That evening, I didn't feel at all like I usually would before a flight. There was no panic attack, no tears, no inability to sleep. Instead I felt a bit excited by the thought of getting on the plane! A totally foreign feeling for me!

When I arrived at Bristol airport the next day, I had some slight butterflies in my tummy but on the whole I felt a million times calmer than I usually would before a flight. tears, no panic attack.

We checked in, went through security as normal....this was probably where I felt most flustered as airport security staff just aren't the most patient and encouraging of people on the whole are they?! A few barked orders was all it took to make me feel a little jittery ...but once I was sitting down at the boarding gate going through the calming techniques Lawrence had taught us, I felt fine again.

When it was time to board, again I felt slightly nervous...butterflies in the tummy, that voice in my head saying "What are you doing? You're getting on a plane. By yourself as well! You can't do this! Panic! Panic now! Why aren't you panicking?!" ... but again, reverting back to the techniques we'd been taught I was able to keep that panicky feeling at bay.

When I realised I wouldn't be sitting with Claire I felt a bit nervous again as I took my seat next to a big muscular guy and a lady I didn't recognise...but he introduced himself straight away and luckily was very friendly and lovely to chat to, so I felt ok again.

After a few minutes, we were off along the run away. The pilot from the day before was on board with us, as were Lawrence, Baz and the Fearless Flyer company director Mark...the pilot talked us through every noise and sensation as we took off which I'm sure was very reassuring but to be honest? I didn't feel like I needed to listen as those nerves and the fear I usually experience? It just wasn't there.

I can't believe it....even now I can't believe it....but the fear was gone.

I felt elated. I felt excited. I felt in awe of how beautiful the clouds looked as I gazed out of the window of the plane for the first time ever (I'd never been able to even glance out before). But I didn't feel scared. Not even slightly.

We circled around for 20 minutes or so, and then it was time to land again....and I was honestly so sorry that it was time to get off.

Since the course, I no longer feel those nervous butterflies in my tummy or that panicked feeling in my chest when I think of booking a flight. Instead I feel excited.

I feel as though the world is truly my oyster. I have my freedom back and I cannot wait to book a flight and take advantage of it!

I cannot thank the Easyjet Fearless Flyer team enough for the magic they have worked on me.

I never thought that anyone or anything would ever be able to take that intense fear that I had away...but they have managed it.

And I couldn't be happier!

If you are afraid of flying, I cannot recommend this course highly enough...if you think that your fear is "special" or that they won't be able to cure you, believe me...I felt exactly the same. You have nothing to lose, so it is well worth giving it a try.

You can find details of the next courses at

If you'd like to take a look at my video from the course and the experience flight, please take a look below:

*Disclosure - I was given my place on this course for free in return for a blog post detailing my honest opinion on it. I have not been paid for this or asked to write a positive review, all words in this post are my own and I truly feel as though this course has helped me to conquer my fear.

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