Sometimes all it takes is one bad flight and a veteran business traveler can become fearful of flying forever. Just ask 40-year-old Diane Serbin, who flew for years with no worries until a rough flight from Denver to Aspen, Colorado, during a 1986 blizzard changed all that. "Once I started to develop the fear, every time I flew it would get worse," Serbin says.
There are a variety of reasons travelers are afraid to fly, from a fear of heights or loss of control to claustrophobia. For business travelers who are uneasy about flying but don't have a way around it, there are ways to minimize the discomfort, says Serbin, who developed a quarterly newsletter, Happy Landings ($19 per year), with sisters Carol Ann, 34, and Joanne, 39, to address these issues. For starters, become a knowledgeable flier. Attend a seminar or find information addressing the science of aviation so you're familiar with how planes fly.
Before climbing aboard, develop techniques that will make you more comfortable. For example, consider bringing your own "pre-flight relaxation bag" with goodies like your favorite snacks or audiotapes, says Serbin. Practicing relaxation techniques like breathing and isometric exercises while in your seat may also help you loosen up.
Finally, if you've had a bad experience on an airplane, try to get back in the saddle as soon as possible. If not, you risk having what may be only a mild fear of flying develop into a deep-rooted phobia. Says Serbin, "Avoiding flying only makes it worse."