First flight for an older, scared parent. Ideas?

I am going to finally tie the knot soon, and my parents wish to be with my fiancee and me on the day of our marriage. But there is a problem: my father never set foot on an airplane before, and so he is scared. Scared enough to consider not coming at all. I don’t want to pressure him because I know there are genuine cases of flight-induced panics and phobias, but sincerely we don’t know. It could be, on the other side, a normal fear for something that he never did before.

To cheer him up I tried telling him funny ways to solve the problem. Does anybody remember the A-Team? :slight_smile: So I told my dad, “Daddy, I can hit you over the head and when you wake up I’ll tell you we went from Italy to the UK by train”. I also told him that this is a good occasion to drink up a whole bottle of fine italian Grappa, so he’ll be asleep all the time.

Of course these are only jokes, but the problem is still there. How can I help him? Speaking with him, he will feel very humiliated if he cannot make it. :frowning:

We considered travelling by train and/or by ship, but there are two main problems: first of all the trip would take days, not just hours, totalling up more days out of his office than he can afford. And second, neither he nor my mother speak any foreign language, only Italian, so they are worried of missing the coincidences and not being able to get information.

Any ideas?

Does he have a regular physician? Perhaps the doctor would prescribe a few doses of an anti-anxiety medication, strictly for the flights.

A pre-flight hour in the airport bar works for me.

Much better than the “drink up” idea – and with some of the modern meds, it won’t get him badly groggy, just more even-keeled and prevent actual panic attacks. But it would not be just “ask for something”, it would have to be specific to him.

Depending on how much time there is, there are programmes to aid the flight-phobic that may be looked into. If it’s just fear of the unknown it could even be as simple as talkign it out with some friends or business associates who also got over it – which is important in that it involves recognizing that yes, indeed there will be unease.

I fly several times a year and every year there’s at least one segment where the pilot succeeds in making me queasy to the marrow of my bones while doing whatever is normal when approaching/leaving that particular airport.

The problem is indeed in the fact that we don’t know which is his case, because he never had any reason at all to travel by plane. He didn’t actively avoid flights - that might have been a sign of flight-phobia - he just never needed to fly, so we’re stumped.
By the way, as far as I know (but IANADoctor) he might not even get the meds until there’s a clear, demonstrated phobia. I am told that Italian doctors tend to be extremely careful with that kind of medicines, to the point of having a policy of “No cure until illness is shown”. This is, at least, what I’ve been told.

I would NOT advise this, since if he’s showing the least bit of being intoxicated, the airlines can refuse to allow him to fly. He’s anxious, arrives drunk (or slightly intoxicated), the airlines refuse to let him fly, and that would decrease his anxiety? I think not.

Personally, I’d try to see what makes him anxious about flying. Is it the crowds at the airport? Being up in the air? Making a connection? Missing a connected flight? A language barrier? Address his concerns, but with respect and dignity (his, not yours).

I’d also advise him speaking to his doctor for a light sedation for the flight–just enough to take the edge off, not to knock him unconscious.

Another suggestion (following on from your other thread regarding doing it by train): From what I read here, it’s not straightforward fear-of-flying, but aprehension of doing something so very different. If you’ve got friends in Rome you can call a favour on, you could get an extra flight to Newcastle, with a return leg the same evening. That way, your parents aren’t left to fend for themselves at any point. And it’ll still probably cost less than the train journey, given it’s an Easyjet route. And you’ll have a couple of hours to show your friend everything worth seeing in the north-east :stuck_out_tongue:

He should get a small prescription for xanax, the anti-anxiety medication. Half a miligram should be fine. The effect is relaxing, not unlike a few stiff drinks, but without the puking and stewardess groping that may result from a trip to the airport bar. :slight_smile:

How about him taking a test flight (about an hour, perhaps) on a major airline within Italy between two big cities? At least that way he’ll find out if his anxiety is severe or not. If it is, he’ll only be in the air for a short time. He could even take the train to the distant city and fly back, so if he does have problems, he’ll be home.

That’s a really good idea. I looked at , and the best bet would be to do a flight to Milan or Naples - anthing else (such as Pisa or Florence) may involve a vomit-comet turboprop, which is hardly the best encouragement. And obviously it’s easy to get home from Milan or Naples by train if necessary.

I don’t have trouble with flying, it’s the airplane atmosphere that I hate. It’s claustraphobic, and smells bad because of the jet fuel. After I realized there are well over 10,000 domestic flights a day, and how rare it is when they crash, I don’t worry about that anymore.

I used to be afraid of flying - but that was because I was on a flight where something bad happened that scared the crap out of me.

I got over it by earning a pilot’s license. This is, admittedly, a drastic approach and certainly not cheap. Nor is it particularly quick. So perhaps that is not the ideal approach. :slight_smile:

Anyhow - you father should know that it’s actually quite common to be apprehensive or even fearful prior to a very first flight in an airplane. I’ve taken up first-timers several times and they are all a little scared… so really, some concern/fear means you’re normal.

I mean, really - we learn pretty early in life that falling down can hurt, and the further you fall the more it hurts. Remember learning to ride a bicycle, how you wobbled and feared falling down? Until you became confident the bicycle would hold you up, you had some anxiety. Likewise, until you becomes confident the airplane will safely get you from point A to point B you’re going to be a little concerned. Just normal anxiety.

You don’t understand how those big, heavy things stay up in the air, you don’t understand how they work, you don’t know what’s normal here. The motion is different, there are occassional alarming noises (things like landing gear going up and down), and you’re sitting jammed in a teeny seat next to people you don’t know for significant periods of time. My goodness, sometimes I think it’s a wonder anyone flies.

Anyhow, if your father could figure out what is making him so anxious it might help. Lack of control, perhaps? A lot of people are bothered by not being in control. In fact, it causes me problems on commercial flights - I’ve gotten real used to being in the cockpit, now they expect to trust strangers?. I just keep reminding myself that the guys up front have survived a very rigorous selection process in an extremely competitive career. If they weren’t good - nay, excellent - they wouldn’t be in front doing the flying.

Some people are bothered by the noises. Personally, since I have some idea what all the thuds and what not are I find them very reassuring. Those noises are the sound of things working. It’s like being afraid because a car door makes noise when you slam it - but if you’ve never been in a car before you aren’t expecting it, so it’s startling. Come to think of it, the sounds made by shutting the cabin doors can be intimidating - but again, that’s the sound of very solid machinery locking in your breathable air and locking out a hostile environment. I find thick, sealed doors reassuring. So is a good, solid sound of it locking.

Some people are bothered by being so high off the ground - this bothers my boss at work. So when I’m arranging travel for her I try to sit her in the center of the airplane, away from the windows she doesn’t want to look out of anyway. Me, I’m a touch claustrophobic (another reason I’m not fond of commercial air travel) so I do better if I can look out the windows - I’m still trapped in an aluminum tube, but I can look out which settles my nerves.

Don’t like bumpy rides? The smoothest ride is usually a seat over the wings (I try to get those for my boss, too.) Don’t like noise? Engines are either on the wings or, if not, at the tail - so rear seats may be noisier than those up front.

Everything just too new? Then a short flight might be in order… even on a turboprop. It will also give him something to compare the bigger airplane to, and I would expect the bigger plane would be much smoother and more pleasent a ride (I don’t know for sure - I’ve been in big jets and little dinky prop planes, but I’ve never been in a turboprop, oddly enough)

If you have a delicate stomach I’d recommend skipping on board meals entirely, if they’re even offered. Eat light prior to boarding, then eat again after arrival.

I’m not a big fan of sedation, however, if your father’s anxiety is excessive it might be worth talking to a doctor about it. It is an option. I do NOT recommend getting drunk - feeling ill on an airplane is not going to make you look forward to the next flight!

Anyhow, despite the normal concerns everyone has on their first flight, most people find it’s not too bad, and some folks wind up loving to travel quickly enough to put up with the aggravations of modern air travel. It is important, however, to make the first experience as pleasent as possible.

Wear comfortable clothes. Arrive at the airport early so you don’t have to rush.

Remember - modern air travel is the safest form of travel. Accidents are extremely rare. In many ways, it’s like taking a bus or subway, except the worst of the riffraff are filtered out by security before you get on board.

Also remember - fear doesn’t have to stop you. If you want to fly all you have to do is get on the airplane, even if you’re afraid. The cabin crew are used to nervous fliers - there are some on every flight - and may well have a word or two of reassurance. Remember, these people fly for a living. If they aren’t afraid you shouldn’t be, either.

Check back in if your father gets any insight to why he’s afraid.

I took that the last time I flew. I have a moderately intense flight phobia. (No hysteria, but take-off usually finds me gripping my husband and weeping quietly into his shoulder. I once cried for an entire 13 hour flight from Paris to the Midwest.)

Xanax knocked me out. It was great. I took the prescribed dose before the flight, and was so incredibly drowsy that I fell asleep as soon as I sat down. I missed the whole flight! I’ll never leave home without it again!

Well, yesterday evening I had a long talk with my mother. Apparently dad won’t take any medicines, either. And when questioned by her on what he fears, he mentioned terrorists and crashes. So he wouldn’t take the meds while on the ground because, in that moment, he’s afraid of what might happen later.

It might well be that he’s rationalizing on a bottom fear of lack of control, because I remember him years ago when the situation was a little calmer, and he used to say he wouldn’t like to fly.

So, in the end, he’s not coming. My mother won’t leave him alone because he will feel humiliated, so he’ll need support. In the end I’ll have to get married without my parents. Color me :frowning:

Stewardess groping? Oh puhleeze. I don’t understand why everyone is so down on the cocktails! They actually serve them on the plane! Much cheaper than a doctor’s appointment or a class. It’s not heroin…it’s a friggin’ beer!