Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a list of the most commonly asked questions we get at the Fear of Flying Clinic. If you have a question that we have not addressed, please feel free to contact us.
How common is fear of flying?
Estimates are that at 20-30% of the population is afflicted with degree of fear of flying. Most of our clients have flown before and know how to "get by." Many can even get themselves on the plane. Even so, they often find the experience painful, anxiety-inducing—even "terrifying"—as they white-knuckle their way through. For other clients, the fear has become so persistent and so debilitating that they've quit flying altogether—often to the detriment of key family relationships, important life events, and personal milestones. In other words: there is no single type of fearful flier. The fear spans the full spectrum—all ages, all socio-economic strata, all levels of flying and travel experience. The good news? The affliction is shared, and so is the solution. The Fear of Flying Clinic's strength lies in its sense of steadfast community, its rejection of stigma, and its core belief in the power of team support. You are not alone.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the simple but powerful idea that how we feel is a reflection of how we think. It's not the things that happen to us as much as how we view what has happened to us that creates our anxiety or—conversely—supports our peace of mind. Fearful fliers often cling to ideas about flying that are not based in facts. By addressing misinformation and common aviation misconceptions, CBT tackles fear-based interpretations of perceived risk at the root. This "cognitive" component happens in two steps 1). we add new fact-based information to your flying arsenal and then 2). help you to re-establish your feelings from a fact-based perspective. The "behavioral" component is about challenging your fear through exposure: getting on a stationary airplane, sitting in the cockpit, taking the flight. This crucial "exposure work" reinforces the evidence-based "cognitive" component of your CBT work—and will always be undertaken with our Clinic therapist right there with you. The CBT result is anxiety-minimizing, confidence-maximizing, and no less than life-changing for people who are suffering from debilitating phobia or panic attacks. CBT is widely regarded as the most effective approach in contemporary "talk" therapy, and its methods are at the heart of the Clinic's record of success.
Can I take the Graduation Flight as part of the Workshop?
No, Graduation Flights are only offered as part of the full 2-weekend clinic.
Do I have to take the Graduation Flight?
No. We have built into our program the opportunity to fly, but it is always a choice. The Graduation Flight is strongly encouraged, however, as it is truly a culminating experience designed to solidify your gains in the Clinic.
What if I'm unable to fly, or decide not to fly, on the day of the Graduation Flight?
FOFC does not refund the cost of the Graduation Flight ticket. The Graduation Flight is included in the upfront cost of the full Clinic and is not refundable as a separate expense. However, the ticket is yours—so if you don't use it on the day of the flight it can be used at a later date (subject to an airline change fee). (see more details on our graduation flight refund policy and procedure below:
Graduation Flight Refund Policy and Procedure
Clients who attend our two-weekend clinics are strongly encouraged to participate in the graduation flight, which is included in the enrollment cost of the clinic. It is a significant milestone in facing phobias about flying, as it helps to reinforce all the new tools (knowledge and information) clients have learned in the Clinic.
Taking the graduation flight, however, is not mandatory. We cannot, and will not, force anyone to take the flight if they feel they are not ready. Additionally, we understand that sometimes last-minute personal circumstances arise that will prevent a client from taking the flight.
If a client chooses not to fly, they will be able to use the value of their ticket for another flight within one year, but will have to pay a $125 change fee. Upon deplaning, a FOFC staff person will give the client their ticket/reservation number, and then he/she will need to contact reservations to see about booking a different flight.
Rebooking is solely the responsibility of the client.
Also, according to Alaska Airline’s ticket refund policy, there is no residual value of a ticket’s remaining balance. So, for example, (after paying the $125 change fee) say that the ticket price for the graduation flight is $300. Rebooking on another flight for $200 will not result in a $100 refund.
If you have any questions about this policy, please contact the Fear of Flying Clinic office.
What kind of plane do we fly?
Our Graduation Flight is on a regular commercial airline flight. Seating is booked to ensure that all FOFC participants sit together as a group on-board the plane.
Where do we meet for the Clinic?
The Clinic meets in the San Francisco International Airport's Reflection Room, located in SFO's International Terminal. We believe that the exposure to the airport environment plays an important role in reducing the fear of flying. Part of what we're working to do every time we meet as a group is acclimate you to the sights and sounds of air travel—to learn that the airport is a safe space.
How many people are in a class?
There are usually at least 10 participants in each session, but never more than 25.
What is the required age for our events?
We ask that our participants be at least 18 if they are coming on their own. If they are under 18 we will need a parent or guardian to attend the entire session with them (free of charge for the parent/guardian). We ask that if you're under the age of 15 that you find other avenues for support. Many of the topics discussed may not be appropriate for younger minds. They may hear about things they were not already thinking about.
For the Clinic, can I attend just a few of the days, because I cannot attend all four days.
We ask our clients to please commit to all four days of our Clinics. We only have so many spots per year for these Clinic's and there are many people that want to be there all four days. Additionally, there is usually a camaraderie that develops among the participants and if you're not there the entire time, this takes away from the experience for everyone. If an urgent or emergent issue arises preventing you from committing to all four days, let the office staff know and they might be able to accommodate your situation.
If I'm planning on flying shortly after completing the Clinic, do you still recommend I take the Graduation Flight?
Yes! It's our experience that flying with other members of your class is extremely important in cementing the gains you've made in the Clinic.
What if I have claustrophobia, as well as a fear of flying? Will that make it impossible for me to get better?
Not at all. In fact, it's quite common for our clients to have some level of claustrophobia in addition to a fear of flying. A fear of flying very often overlaps with other phobias, and it's often the compounding of multiple fears—loss of control, claustrophobia, fear of feeling overwhelming anxiety, fear of panic attacks—that leads people to catastrophize their flight scenario. The "take aways" you'll gain in the Clinic—information from pilots, maintenance engineers, flight attendants and air controllers—can be very helpful in reducing your claustrophobia as well as speaking directly to your fear of flying. Additionally, in the course of the Clinic, clients have an opportunity to board a stationary plane while on our maintenance tour—an incredible "exposure exercise" that has proven helpful to clients suffering from both phobias.
What if I have Panic Disorder, as well as a fear of flying? Do you recommend this program for this issue?
Typically, we have at least 25% of our clients with panic disorder or claustrophobia. We use the same cognitive behavioral techniques for that as with a simple fear of flying. Our main focus is on education about airline safety, but that we also help clients deal with their fear of being trapped in an airplane by helping them manage their irrational thoughts about that space, and by providing them a chance to practice being in an airplane on the ground at the maintenance center (Clinic's Only). Clients who are most successful are those who have worked on their panic disorder in other areas before tackling flying...bridges, elevators, and closed spaces. If your goal is to get comfortable inside an airplane, it can only help to learn why that space is safe; so all the things we teach abound airline safety can be useful to them, even though that’s not their main focus.
Is there confidentiality?
While we encourage openness and work to shatter stigma, we also absolutely respect that some of our clients desire more privacy than others. As we work together, all our clients are asked to respect each other's privacy. We trust that all our clients will honor the confidentiality of their classmates, and FOFC itself will never use a client's name or image in any of our materials without that client's explicit permission, or share any of their registration information with anyone.
Can I bring a friend or family member with me to the clinic?
Yes. If you find the support of a friend or family member helpful, they are welcome to attend as observers. This can be a useful addition, if the observer is able to reinforce what the client is learning. We would ask, however, that support persons not have a fear of flying themselves. During Clinics we will need the full name and contact information for the support person so that we can make sure they're added to our list of names we submit to the airport when we visit areas that are behind the scenes of the airport.
Important information for non-US citizens (for 4-day clinic participants only)
If you are a non-U.S. citizen, there is additional security clearance that needs to happen. So, registering at the last minute (even if within the deadline) could result in you not being able to visit the control tower or the maintenance hangar.
What if I decide to cancel my enrollment in a Clinic or a Workshop?
Full information on our cancellation and change fees can be found HERE.