I'm not exactly sure where my fear of flying came from… maybe it was the constant binge watching of Air Crash Investigations when I was a teenager; then maybe not. As I sit here writing this blog in Brisbane Airport, waiting to board my flight to Sydney, I wonder what I was so afraid of. Flying was so foreign to me and the first time I had to fly as an adult was for a modelling job in Melbourne. The flight was two hours and I was so scared to step foot in the airport let alone on the plane. My love and passion for my job (and my husband escorting me to the gate) had me sucking up my fear and getting on the plane. Flying has become part of my life now and although it still has me uneasy, there is still the potential risk of finding me screaming and running off the plane at the first sign that a flight attendant is concerned.
I used to listen and react to every single noise the plane made, I would look at the flight attendants all flight making sure they were still smiling and standing up. Not sitting down and holding on for dear life. I was always vigilantly watching for that sideways glance that they would give each other, that would signal to me that we are in the s*@t.
There were a few instances whilst in the air, where I thought the end was nigh and I apologise to the poor people next to me who experienced my full force grip of their hands, listening to me claiming “I'm too young to die, I have four children” or something similar.. actually that would’ve been in my head, all they would have heard would have been my gasps. As I looked around the plane though there was no sign of distress and everyone was soundly sleeping, reading or watching movies through the plane jerking side to side, up and down; all apparently normal.
It was on a Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane to Melbourne that had me reassessing my fear. A very kind flight attendant saw me getting on the plane and must have seen my face and known he didn’t need to tell me where the 6 exits where, I was already well and truly on top of that as my eyes darted for the nearest one! He made his way to me and my seat and starting chatting to me, asked me how I was feeling about flying and proceeded to explain the basic fundamentals of flying. He checked up on me throughout the flight and as stupid as I felt for being 'that person' he really helped me, not just this flight but my perspective on flying. He did this by giving me as much information as possible, everything from the testing regime that planes are put through, their service requirements, some facts and figures and just a general good old Aussie “she’ll be right”; again proving that "knowledge dispels fear".
On another flight, I was ending a long day at work, I was alone in my row on the last flight of the night. The plane was nearly empty and the flight attendant could tell I was nervous as I usually am when flying at night. He came and sat with me, we had a great chat and he too checked in on me several times throughout the flight. Whatever the recruitment process is for Virgin Australia flight attendants, they are kicking goals in my eyes!
Then there was the time we flew through an actual storm. This would test my new perspective. I was fortunate and eternally grateful that there was an off duty flight attendant still in uniform at the end of my row who seemingly filed her nails during the turbulence whilst I was about to sob my eyes out and start praying to whichever god would listen to my requests to be saved. She proceeded to assure me no storm in Australia was strong enough to bring down a plane. If that statement wasn’t true, she sure delivered that line with so much confidence that I couldn’t doubt her. To this day, I have no idea if it is in fact true but I thank her ever so much for calming my nerves. I believe in stepping out of your comfort zone and fate is obviously laughing its arse off at me as my next trip was booked for overseas in Bali; away from the safe storms of Australia. Me being me, my mind instantly thought of the storm that would hit the plane the moment we left the safety of Australian air space and no doubt would bring the plane down... Alas, I survived that flight too and here I am flying once again.
I’m so very lucky I get to travel as much as I do. I have a huge overseas trip coming up this month, again pushing the comfort zone line and this will be the longest flight I've experienced. So much travel whether to another country, or even interstate, can be a little fatiguing and have I mentioned “scary”; those small acts of kindness and understanding from the flight attendants (and other passengers) can really change someone's day, their long term perspective and all in all help someone overcome a fear. I only hope the Virgin Australia flight attendants endurance and patience are strong enough to quell my fears on my next 11 hour trip. Eleven hours with me, asking every question under the sun, needing their reassurance and maybe a champagne or two!