Fear of flying can range from feeling slightly unsettled when the plane hits a spot of turbulence to being practically convulsed with terror at the mere thought of going to the airport (*and not just about the prices!). Some people just feel scared during take-off and/or landing, but are fine for the rest of the flight - while others suffer anxiety throughout. Symptoms can include panic attacks and vomiting.
Of course, being afraid to fly can totally ruin your holiday - and may stop you travelling abroad altogether. Abby Wells, 34, says: 'My fear of flying grew worse as I grew older. I'm a bit of a control freak, and I don't like the idea that I'm not in control when I'm on a plane. Anxiety about flying has ruined lots of holidays: when I went to New York in 2004, I almost didn't board the flight.'
Why be afraid?
But surely it's not that irrational to be scared of getting on a plane? After all, engine failure, accidents and terrorist attacks do happen, don't they? Well, yes - but unlike car crashes, for example, incidence of air disasters is very small.
In fact, flying is still considered to be one of the safest - if not, the safest - way to travel. According to Professor Robert Bor, author of 'Overcome Your Fear of Flying' (Sheldon Press, £7.99), you have a greater chance of being kicked to death by a donkey than of anything happening to you in an air crash!
Still feeling anxious? 'The kind of language airlines use doesn't help,' says hypnotherapist Bijan Daneshmand (www.essencehypnosislondon.com). 'Phrases like "terminal", "departure lounge" and "last and final call" make people feel unsettled before they've even boarded the plane.'
Conquer that fear!
Still, there are plenty of ways to overcome your fears and stop them from meddling with your holiday plans. These can range from buying an over-the-counter remedy to booking in for a one-day course or hypnotherapy session. Here are a few tried-and-tested fear-quashers...
Get informed. The more you know about flying, the less concerned you'll be. We're not suggesting you become an expert in aeronautics - but learning how a plane flies, how it stays up in the air and what causes turbulence (which is totally safe, by the way) will help you feel more in control and realise your fear is irrational. All these topics are covered in the hugely successful one-day courses offered by airlines. Two of the best are Virgin Atlantic's Flying Without Fear (www.flyingwithoutfear.info) and British Airways' Fly Without Fear (www.aviatours.co.uk). The day also includes a short flight and expert advice on relaxation techniques. Prices start from around £199 plus VAT.
Reprogramme your subconscious. Hypnotherapy is often used in the successful treatment of phobias - and fear of flying is no exception. 'Your subconscious mind is a sponge waiting to absorb whatever you give it,' says clinical hypnotherapist Monica Black (www.hampsteadhypnotherapy.com). 'If you can imagine yourself not being afraid of flying, your subconscious mind will accept that as reality. You'll normally need between one and three sessions.'
Try a quick-fix treatment. If your fear is fairly mild, there are plenty of good remedies available in chemists nationwide. Some examples? Tisserand Travel Ease (£4.50) is a roll-on blend of essential oils to help you relax. Les Fleurs de Bach Elixir de Bach Fear (£7.95) contains an exclusive mix of Bach flower essences to banish in-flight anxieties. And Viridian Rhodiola Rosea (£9.95), taken in capsule form, will also help calm nerves.
Learn to breathe! If your breathing is slow and controlled, you'll feel calmer and relaxed during the flight. Monica Black suggests this technique: 'Sit down and close your eyes. Place your right hand on your tummy and your left hand on your chest. Imagine a balloon, which just happens to be your favourite colour, in your tummy. Breathe slowly and deeply. Breathe in through your nostrils, and imagine the balloon inflating in your tummy. Exhale and allow all the air to flow out of your body - and as you exhale, see the balloon deflating and repeat the word "relax" to yourself silently.'
Teach yourself mind control. 'Self-talk is extremely powerful,' insists Bijan Daneshmand. 'When you predict you're going to be scared to get on a plane, you're actually telling yourself how you're going to feel. Try trading in negative thoughts for positive ones. Remember pleasant flights, beautiful views or happy feelings. Each thought can be better than the one before.'
Think about the destination, not the journey. Look up in the sky right now, and chances are you'll see at least one plane. People are flying to exotic destinations and seeing all that the world has to offer every second of every day. Why should you miss out because of a fear that - face it - you know is irrational? Or to put it another way: feel the fear and book that flight anyway...