Panic at 30 feet?

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fear of flying delta points blog

My wife and I have both been “used to” flying from very early ages. I have a bit of a tendency toward motion sickness now and then but Lisa never has. Neither one of us has ever experienced any kind of fear of flying either, and although I do not like heights, flying feels somehow different to me. Some do suffer these very real fears and when Lisa recently returned from her extended trip to Sweden helping with my mom she saw just how gripping this fear can be on the face of a fellow passenger attempting to travel from Göteborg to Amsterdam. Today, I’ll let my Lisa tell you about it. – René

klm737 inside

I always fly with my husband. He knows where to go and what lounge is best and where it is for that matter since I tend to get lost kinda easy. But I was proud of myself for being a big girl and flying solo internationally for the first time ever. The taxi to the airport went fine, so did check-in and I found the right lounge door. After breakfast I went to the gate.

All of the passengers had boarded the aircraft and the cabin door was closed. All were settling in and the crew were preparing for takeoff. Suddenly a passenger comes quickly up the aisle and he appeared to be very upset about something. As I watched from my seat I could see that he was extremely anxious, hands shaking, face flushed, sweating profusely, and explaining his plight to a very understanding crew. They offered him a cold glass of water, a cold towel for his neck and spoke soothingly to him. They asked if it would help if they offered him a seat in the business class section where he would not have someone right next to him. The pilot came out of the cockpit to speak to him and reassure him they would do all they could to make him comfortable. He seemed a bit more calm, agreed to try the business class seat to see if he could manage the flight from there. He was seated opposite me in row 3 and the crew resumed pre-flight preparations.


Roughly 2 minutes passed. The pilot announced, “Cabin crew, please arm slides.” and this seemed to be the proverbial straw for this poor man. Flinging off the seat belt, he again raced to the front of the plane saying, “No, no, no. I cannot. Must get OFF! OFF! OFF!” He waved rather frantically toward the rear of the aircraft to his traveling companion and she came up quickly carrying a backpack. The pilot reappeared and briefly spoke with him again to confirm that he did indeed want to get off the plane. Then we hear, “Cabin crew, please disarm slides.” and I see the jet bridge moving back toward the aircraft. After obtaining the 2 checked bag claim numbers so the ground crew could find and remove those bags from the aircraft, the 2 passengers disembarked and the rest of us sat waiting for the bags to be found so we could be on our way. It took only 5 minutes and very quickly the door was re-closed and we again heard, “Cabin crew, please arm slides.” and off we went. We made up the time in the air, landing 10 minutes early in Amsterdam.

dtw-ams (Medium)

I was struck by this experience. I have seen fellow passengers not feeling well, showing degrees of discomfort and fear over take offs, landings, or turbulence in-flight. I am sure most all of us have. I have never seen someone in the full grip of fear from a very real case of aerophobia before. We all have things we might consider to be a “phobia”. I dislike snakes and cockroaches while spiders are no friends of René’s. Have any of you ever seen or had a similar experience on a flight or what are you “phobic” about?!? – Lisa

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  1. Do that in Europe – upgraded to business class. IF you get off, plane resumes normalcy within 5 minutes.

    Pull that stunt in the US – likely arrested for interfering with a flight crew, met at the gate by TSA and eventually FBI for thorough interview, flight delayed until ATF can clear the plane of any device (requiring all passengers and luggage to offload).

  2. My wife is not quite as bad as the phobic passenger you describe, but is a real white-knuckle case on takeoff. She’s found a cure, however: a glass of champagne just before wheels up. Strangely, no other alcohol works — not wine, or spirits, or beer — only champagne, even though she doesn’t drink it that much otherwise. So we only fly Business or First so she can have a glass in her seat while still on the runway, or if not possible make sure there is an airport bar where she can get a glass before boarding. It’s worth it to help her stay calm on takeoff.

  3. I found this a VERY interesting story to read (and well written). Thanks for sharing it Lisa. Like @Emil, I’ve seen plenty of those white knuckles over the years… but it was years ago when playing Microsoft Flight Simulator that I realized it’s MUCH MUCH more difficult to land a plane safely than it is to get one to take off. Yet, barring unusual circumstances, you just don’t see people getting anywhere near as anxious. If they only knew…. 😉

  4. p.s. One of my most memorable flights EVER was this same GOT>AMS KLM flight/route. The flight attendant serving the rear of the plane gave the most theatrical, comedic safety demonstration — just amazing — and it ended with loud, sustained applause. It might have been a standing ovation, but we all had our seat belts on and securely fastened.

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