sly : marketing

Fear of Flying

I just got back home from a trip to Madrid (Spain). Unfortunately, I had to go there by plane, and it was a plane from Ryan Air, a Boing 737. The plane’s not that important, Ryan Air is not that important. To me, it all feels the same. By the way, this is a story about a Norwegian man with a fear of flying and a love for marketing.

image: jmiguel

I love to travel, the only problem is that I sort of have a fear of being inside an airplane. To me, the whole concept of flying or being in the air, is surreal. I guess I just don’t understand how it’s possible, but sooner or later I have to accept that it’s possible and that we all need to travel by plane if we want to travel the world. But not yet.

FIying should be all about marketing.

Now, we can fly the friendly skies nude, but still, I haven’t found a single airline who focuses on the fear of flying. I’m not saying that they should cure it, but they should help us forget, divert our thoughts. Well, I guess that if I had been on an all nude airline, I would have forgotten all about the fear. But, that’s not an option. Or is it? No, it’s not. I can’t see myself nude inside an airplane eating my snickers bar. I just can’t.

Why am I scared of turbulence?

Flying in turbulence is safe. The reason it scares me, is probably because I’m scared of roller coasters too. I know, but don’t judge me. I’m just being honest. Being inside a plane sometimes feels just like being on a roller coaster, thousands of feet up in the air, without any control. When I’m there, I’m just thinking about what’s going to happen next. When I’m on a roller coaster I sort of know what’s going to happen, I keep looking for the next turn or the next big dip. Inside a plane, I just don’t know. And that’s not good. At least not to me. But at the same time it feels a little exciting. My stumach is doing twists and turns, and that’s really where the roller coaster ride is – and inside my head; my mind is going up and down, and experiencing the next big dip and a worst case scenario.

A bigger problem is that turbulence is not the worst part of being inside an airplane. The thoughts of being there, and what can happen, and the small space, packed with people. Oooh. It’s, it’s hard to handle, and just the thought of being inside the plane for many hours, not being able to do anything other than being inside the airplane (I know, I read, I listen to music, watch movies, eat, talk, but still, it feels like I’m just inside the airplane doing nothing).

The Space

I understand that they are probably modelling the trips to local bus rides, and that the more people they get inside the airplane, the more money they’ll earn. And I understand that it’s all about business, and earning money. But why can’t they do something about the space? Just humor me for a second. I understand that it would be a lot more expensive. But it doesn’t help people with a fear of flying, that we feel like sardines inside the tiniest can available. Space would help, but it’s not enough.

Image: riverofgod

The comfort

Space is not the same as comfort. But it helps to have room for our legs, and it helps to be able to eat without touching the guy seated next to you. Comfort is about the seats, and it’s about the temperature, and it’s about the smell. When flying to Madrid (and back), the smell was probably the worst part of the trip. For a minute I thought that all the people inside the plane had taken off their shoes simultaneously. But, eventually, I got used to the smell, and after a few hours I didn’t even remember that it was an issue to begin with.

Divert thoughts

The major challenge when it comes to people who have a fear of flying are the thoughts. We can’t stop thinking about the worst case scenarios. Every sound, no matter how small, every expression, every smell, whatever it is, it’s a worst case scenario. The executives of airplane companies should visit my dentist, I’ll bet they’ll learn a thing or two.

Again, humor me. I understand that this is not how they do it, and it’s probably security reasons why they shouldn’t. But I would just like to say it.

Why can’t they stop telling us about what happens during a crash, or if the plane drops and what happens if we hit water? Why can’t they play some really cool music out loud, why can’t they focus on entertainment (I want to watch a movie during take off), and feed us before the plane enters the runway? I would like to get my beer and drink it while I feel the air beneath.

I can’t even listen to the music on my iPhone before everything is “safe” and the seatbelt signs are switched off. It always helps to listen to music. I close my eyes and drift away.


I’m looking for something I would have to pay a lot of money for. I have never been close to business class or first class, VIP or whatever the name is for the section of the plane for people with a lot more money than me. But I guess that they have some of the customer service that I am looking for. They can probably understand what the captain is saying, and what the flight attendants are saying when they’re talking into the microphone. Because I can’t. I don’t think I have ever been able to understand a single word they’ve said. I would love to hear something, some words explaining how high up in the air we are, where we are travelling, stuff to see, something. Tell me something that I can understand, and something I want to hear. It’s not that difficult, just ask, what do you want to hear? I’ll tell you, we’ll all tell you. Maybe we could get some headphones, like at the museums, so if you don’t want to listen to the captain, you won’t have to?

Switch of focus

I believe a switch of focus, to a focus on comfort, entertainment (and maybe the destination), and away from what happens during an eventual crash would be very helpful. Looking at the flight attendants showing us how to use the oxygen masks and the life jackets freaks me out. It feels like watching the Texas chain saw massacre in case we would stumble onto a maniac in the forrest while out walking.

It seems that as customers we are happy just to be alive and at our destination, and that’s how we are treated.

12 responses to “Fear of Flying”

  1. Ric Nunez says:

    Hi Jens,
    Nice article. Although Ryan Air is not the best example of comfort, because they try to pack more people to maintain the lowest ticket cost. I agree that all the airlines are crap. I’m 6,2 and my legs gets really in pain when I travel to europe, 8 hours in a airplane without space is crazy.

    By the I don’t like roller coaster either (back problems) although I go there every year since I live near Orlando.

    • Hi Ric,

      You’re absolutely right Ryan Air is a bad example, but they traveling with them helped me think about my fear of flying and the lack of comfort and the missing element of marketing (to all the people who have a fear of flying and need to divert their thoughts).

      Wow, Orlando sounds great. That would be one of my favorite destinations 🙂

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

  2. Heidi Yuan says:

    HI Jens,
    I love the way you talk about flying should be all about marketing. I think the Ryanair should develope its marketing strategy to match people’s expectation.

    • Hi Heidi,

      Thanks a lot for the comment. The problem with Ryanair is that no matter how they treat their customers, people are still traveling with them, and they are earning money. They are very successful, at least that’s what I’ve heard, and why change if they are doing great? 🙂

      It seems that there are only two things that they focus on, price (cheapest available) and punctuality. 90% of their flights are right on time (they said it on the speaker when I was traveling with them on sunday).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Validating the fear is also a smart thing, but somehow I can’t see an airline saying, alrighty now! We know you’re afraid to fly (ie, afraid to use us) so let’s fix that right now. Be nice if it happened!

    Money talks, alas, in today’s world, so until money starts saying, I’m not being spent on you until you change, methinks the situation will continue.

    Personally, I’d love better entertainment meself.

    • Hi Barbara,

      I certainly agree with you. Money talks, and the situation will continue… but I really hope that people who have a fear of flying will get some help, like better entertainment. That’s all I need. If I watch a great movie, or listen to music, I don’t need food, drink or candy 🙂

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

  4. Gil Pizano says:

    As I read through your post Jens, I thought to myself, “Wow! What a secure guy to admit that he is afraid of flying and of roller-coasters.” Don’t get me wrong but I believe the way you shared your experiences here is great. You allow people who don’t understand this type of fear get a better handle on understanding it. It’s awesome.

    Even though many people don’t have a fear of flying, there are many other things that a large portion of the human population have various fears off (fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of dogs or fear of spiders, etc.) One of mine, is Aquaphobia, Hydrophobia — fear of water, specifically the morbid fear of drowning. It’s probably related to my slight Claustrophobia or fear of confined spaces.

    On the marketing aspect, I agree with you that they really do have a lot of power in helping to address a person’s fear of flying. The best thing that an airline can probably do is work on more of the positive “experiences” a person will have by flying on their airlines versus other airlines. Maybe a marketing motto such as “You’ll enjoy it so much, you won’t even realize you’ve left the ground”. As to what would cause that much enjoyment…that’s probably a topic for a future post.


    • Hi Gil,

      Thanks a lot. I don’t feel secure, but I understand what you are saying 🙂

      There are so many things people do that they don’t really want to be doing, like being inside an airplane or on a boat or whatever. We do it because we have to (well, we don’t have to, but we want to travel the world) or need to do it.

      Travel companies are doing a lot of PR when it comes to the destinations, but not when it comes to the experience of flying.

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

  5. Heather Smith says:

    In a marketing point of view, fear of flying must be addressed by airline companies, the need to upgrade their aircraft’s capability to carry passengers with ease and comfort couple with a great service and competent employees, with that they can eradicate the notion of flying in fear.

  6. Joseph Hipolito says:

    This is nice Jens, I love to read about this Marketing I’ve learned something new and I know what is talking about..

  7. Martina McKeough says:

    Ever thought of using hypnosis to help with the fear? On a very basic level is helps to calm you and relax you as well as giving messages to your subconscious that everything will be ok. On a deeper level you can find out if there is a deeper root cause for the fear. For example many of my clients have a fear of flying not because of the plane but because they are claustrophobic which is very different.

    • Hi Martina,

      I have thought about using hypnosis, but I don’t have a big issue with my fear of flying. I don’t like it, but I still do it. I keep thinking negative thoughts, and it would be great to only think positive thoughts. But, since it’s not a big problem for me, I haven’t contacted anyone to help me with my fear of flying. On the other hand, it would be great to get someone to talk to.

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