Baggage check in counters at the Terminal 2 of the Dubai International Airport. Photo: gulf news archives;

Dubai: Although residents in the UAE are mostly accustomed to flying, many of them still get nervous every time they get on a plane. In fact, it’s the long-haul flights that scare them the most.

British Airways Captain Steve Allright, who had earlier spoken to a group of nervous flyers in the UAE, said that most people suffer from some kind of flight anxiety when they take a long-haul flight.

“It seems that they find long-haul or transatlantic flights more difficult to handle than short-haul flights. With so many different nationalities living in the UAE, at some point most people are going to have to take a flight home or on holiday or for a business meeting and this is when anxiety can arise,” said Allright.

British Airways had earlier conducted a survey among 1,000 respondents in the UAE and found that over one in four residents have a fear of flying, with nearly half (42 per cent) saying they feel the fear impairs them from enjoying travel.

Allright said the anxiety affects people in all ages, although women are more likely to experience flight jitters. “We see perhaps five per cent more women than men, but age is not a factor,” Allright told Gulf News.

To help UAE residents overcome their flying phobias, the airline is holding again a one-day “Flying Confidence” course in Dubai on Saturday, March 14, at The Capital Club in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). British Airways expects that by the end of this year, they will have helped more than 50,000 people overcome their anxieties.

The course, to be hosted by Allright, will address passengers’ most common concerns, including how an aircraft operates, turbulence and other technical aspects of flying.

“Fear of flying is one of the most basic human characteristics, and our participants on the course vary a lot both in age and experiences. The youngest participant we’ve ever had on the course was just five years old, while we’ve also had grandmothers participate, keen to visit their grandchildren abroad after not flying for decades,” said Allright.

Those who are interested to overcome their fears will have to pay Dh1,725 for the course and participants can sign up through www.flyingwithconfidence.com. The course in Dubai will be divided into two sessions. The first one will be conducted by Allright, where he will talk about the technical side of aviation, especially concentrating on air turbulence, flight safety and aviation mechanics, among others.

A certified phobia counsellor will handle the second session, which will mainly tackle the psychological aspects of aerophobia, the mechanics of fear and how best to deal with anxiety and feelings of panic. There will also be some tools and exercises that will allow participants to deal with their fears head on.

For those who may not be able to participate, Allright shared some quick tips on how to deal with aerophobia.

Control your breathing

When you’re on the plane and the anxiety kicks in, try to control your breathing. Hold your breath, then take a long deep breath in, followed by a long deep breath out. Continue this long breathing exercise until you feel relaxed.

Don’t be bothered by turbulence

Turbulence may be uncomfortable but it’s never dangerous. Compare it to the motion of a train as it goes along the the track. You know that these motions are connected to riding a train – turbulence is the equivalent for an aircraft.