3 Ways to Support Your Anxious Flyer

On a plane
Photo by Aleksei Zaitcev on Unsplash

There’s a lot of conversation about how to handle travel anxiety, however, rarely do we discuss what to do if you’re not the one who’s anxious. No one wants to sit by helplessly as their travel companion has a panic attack at 30,000 feet, but offering advice about taking deep breaths may only go so far. In some cases, it may even make the person feel worse. While we may not be able to take the anxiety away, there are a few more effective ways to support an anxious flier and help them stay calm throughout the journey. Here’s what you need to know.

Plan Ahead & Communicate

When planning your trip, consider booking flights scheduled at off-peak hours, as busy airports and packed planes can increase stress and exacerbate anxious feelings. A few days before your flight, sit down with your companion and go over your itinerary, flight details, and any potential triggers for their anxiety. Knowing what to expect can alleviate some of their worries and will allow you to be on the lookout for signs that they’re starting to have a hard time.

Stay Calm & Provide Distractions

Anxiety can be contagious, so do your best to remain calm throughout your flight so as not to feed into your companion’s fears. If you’re traveling with an adult, remind them in advance to pack their favorite books and electronics to serve as a distraction, and consider including a few backup options in your own carry-on, just in case. More than anything, try to be mindful of their needs without overwhelming them with too much attention.

Ask How You Can Support Them

Show empathy by acknowledging their anxiety and validating their feelings. Rather than assume you know what they need, ask open-ended questions like, “How can I help you feel more comfortable?” or “Is there anything specific you’d like from me right now?” This approach empowers them to communicate their needs and allows you to provide more tailored support.