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The fear of flying.

Dubai: Around one in four residents of the UAE has a fear of flying or aerophobia, according to a survey which British Airways commissioned in 2014. This fact came to light at a course held in Dubai to help people overcome this fear. The survey also revealed that the primary reason people suffer from this problem is due to concerns about safety -- when asked, 41 per cent of the people said this was their main concern. This was closely followed by 35 per cent of respondents stating they have a fear of the unknown.

Captain Steve Allright, a British Airways pilot who led the course titled aACAyBritish Airways Flying with Confidence' along with First Officer Aoife Duggan and certified phobia counsellor Donna Allright at the Capital Club in DIFC, Dubai, earlier this month, said, "There are two groups or categories of people who have a fear of flying; the first are scared of the plane crashing, while the second are those who fear that they will lose control of themselves once on board an aircraft, for example, by having a panic attack, crying, or shouting."

The course began in the UAE in February 2014 and is the first of its kind in the region.

Regardless of how aerophobia expresses itself, it can be very limiting to a person and often a source of deep embarrassment, said Allright. Aerophobia, he said, is not exclusive to a particular gender or age group.

"Some people will perceive certain situations as more threatening than others, and the world then becomes a more frightening place for them," he explained. "For example, you could ask two passengers who travelled on the same flight how comfortable they felt on it, and one may answer that it was aACAyvery turbulent' whilst the other may answer that aACAythere was the odd bump but nothing much'."

While the causes of the fear of flying may not always be evident to a person and may be closely associated to other phobias, like claustrophobia, Allright specialises in helping people cope and overcome aerophobia.

"A fear of flying could be caused by many things," he said. "For example, an incident or accident, [real or perceived], becoming a parent, or a stressful event such as redundancy or divorce. Sometimes it does not have an obvious trigger, but creeps up on an individual slowly."

Allright is happy with the response to the course. "I'm proud to say that we will have helped more than 50,000 people by the end of 2015, and have a 98 per cent success rate," he said. "This figure is based on cumulative evidence gathered from the feedback provided by candidates who have attended the course and by the number of participants who were able to get on a flight after attending the course."

When asked what advice could be shared with people who suffer from aerophobia, Allright said: "Learn to control your breathing. [This calms the mind]. When you feel anxious, hold your breath, then take a long, deep breath in, followed by a long deep breath out. Continue long, deep breathing.

"Also, remember that turbulence may be uncomfortable but it's never dangerous. Aircraft are built to withstand any turbulence they may encounter and turbulence does not threaten the aircraft's structure. Air has fluid properties and, just like a boat stays afloat on a body of water, an aircraft flies because it rests on a body of air."

The course will be held next in the UAE in October.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Mar 30, 2015
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