Fight Or Flight

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This story appears in the February 1997 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

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."

The Happy Landings Test

These questions will help determine the strength of your flying fear.

1. Have you ever avoided taking a trip because air flight was involved?

2. Have you ever experienced nervousness during takeoff or landing?

3. Have you ever refused to board an airplane when you had a ticket in hand?

4. Have you worried about a flight weeks before the scheduled trip?

5. Do you need to make more frequent stops at a bathroom prior to a trip?

6. Has a specific event caused your view of air flight to change during your lifetime?

7. Do you have any physical or medical conditions that make air flight difficult?

8. Do you experience insomnia prior to a flight?

9. Do you feel you need to have a tranquilizer or alcohol close to the time you board a plane?

10. Have you ever experienced an in-flight emergency that you can't seem to forget?

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you probably have a fear that needs to be addressed, and you may want to begin researching ways to become more comfortable with flying. If you answered yes to all the questions, you probably have a stronger fear or phobia that may respond best to working with a behavioral therapist. Source: Happy Landings

Road Notes

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles members can now earn frequent flier miles when they use MCI. New and current MCI residential customers receive five miles for every dollar spent on MCI telecommunications services; as a bonus for SkyMiles members, new MCI customers get 2,000 bonus SkyMiles when they sign up with MCI.

Renting a car? Through March 31, Alamo offers members of United's frequent flier program a guaranteed free upgrade if they rent a compact car for at least three days from any Alamo location in North America and Europe.

Virgin Atlantic Airways has launched drive-thru check-in at Heathrow Airport, allowing Upper Class passengers to check in to their Virgin flight without ever leaving the comfort of their limousines.

Continental now offers the only nonstop service from Newark to Salt Lake City. A 128-seat Boeing 737 aircraft handles two flights a day on this route.

Holiday Inn recently unveiled a new concept called E-space to its more than 2,500 franchisees. The innovation transforms existing lounge and game room areas into electronic entertainment emporiums offering diversions such as golf simulators and high-tech video games.

The new business travel Web site called Global Citizen, sponsored by American Express (on America Online's International Channel), offers useful information on subjects from culture protocol and air fares to reservations and travel tips. Keyword: Global Citizen.

American Airlines AAdvantage members who enroll with AT&T Wireless Services will earn up to five miles for every dollar spent while using the services of AT&T in-flight phones.

Jumping on the smoke-free bandwagon: Swissair has introduced smoke-free service on all European routes.

-Catharine Brockman Kuchar

Lost And Found

These days, car rental companies are steering drivers in the right direction with satellite-based navigational systems. Rather than driving around in circles--or, worse, having to stop and ask for directions--business travelers can use these technologies to find their way around unfamiliar territory.

Last October, Hertz finished installation of the NeverLost navigation system in 8,000 vehicles in 16 markets. How does it work? A 4-inch color monitor located between the front driver and passenger seats uses Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite technology to pinpoint your exact location, then offers computer-generated voice prompts to guide you to your destination. Users can select from cities, streets and highways, and points of interest--or enter a street address--and the software provides turn-by-turn directions to virtually any address within a defined geographic area.

Hertz's NeverLost system is available in four classes of cars ranging from midsized to luxury. Cars equipped with the NeverLost unit are available at an additional $6 per day.

Hertz isn't the only one putting GPS systems on the map, though. Avis has also installed a computer-driven navigation unit, the Avis Satellite Guidance system, in many of its cars. Vehicles with this souped-up system are available in most major markets, including New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington, DC.

Call Waiting

Don't travel enough to invest in a cellular phone? Continental Airlines now provides cellular phones to its trans-Atlantic travelers.

By calling a toll-free reservation line, U.S. travelers can reserve cellular phones to rent by the day, week or month (travelers departing from Europe should call local toll-free numbers in their individual countries). A complete package, including a handheld portable cellular phone, overnight charger, extra batteries, cigarette lighter adaptor and multilingual instructions, can either be shipped directly to customers or delivered to passengers at prearranged destinations.

How much will it eat into your travel expenses? U.S. customers are charged a flat rate of $1.95 per minute (including long-distance and roaming charges); there are no additional charges for delivery and pickup, and no equipment rental fees apply for customers using the phone in the United States.

At the end of your trip, arrange for the cellular phone to be picked up or mail it back via a prepaid envelope included in the phone kit. To make a reservation, call (800) 854-9115.

Contact Sources

Alamo Rent a Car, (800) GO-ALAMO;

American Airlines, (800) 682-0006;

Avis Rent a Car System Inc., (800) 331-1212;

Delta Air Lines, (888) 624-3358;

Happy Landings, 205 Bell Ringer Ct., Newark, DE 19702;

The Hertz Corp., (800) 654-3131;

Holiday Inn Worldwide, (800) HOLIDAY;

Swissair, (800) 221-4750;

Virgin Atlantic Airways, (800) 862-8621.

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