Our Staff journalist and flight phobic, Gemma Weir, embraced the challenge of the easyJet Fearless Flyers course…
THERE are very few things in life I enjoy more than seeing the big wide world that we live in.
Two things have prevented me from tallying up more ticks on my bucket list, the first – was solved with a credit card, but the other, was a little more tricky… The Fear of Flying! Flight Phobia. Flight Anxiety. Whatever you want to call it – it’s a horrendous affliction to be burdened with when you have so much of the world to see and a Kia Picanto that just simply isn’t up to the job.
My phobia didn’t manifest itself with a little silent bead of sweat on my forehead, or the subtle hyperventilation, sweaty palms or quivers of concealed, dignified, concern. I was absolutely terrified and I wanted everyone to know it. I cannot remember the first two days of my Honeymoon as we landed in Barcelona (so I’ve been told) as my new husband realised he had married Father Jack, as I staggered out of the airport like a new born giraffe.
Que EasyJet Fearless Flyers! The course is co-founded by Lawrence Leyton and ex-flight phobic, Mark Wein. One of the rare occasions ‘ex’ is used as a positive prefix! I was intrigued and hopeful, but fearful. The thing about fearful flyers, is that we are quite often fearful about pretty much everything else too!
The first thing that I noticed as I arrived was how many people were there. Of course, I assumed these people couldn’t possibly be as phobic as me. I’m even competitive when it comes to the more negative categories… ‘And the award for the most irrationally petrified goes to… Me, Naturally!’ But alas, a room full of genuinely fearful, phobic flyers. I’m absolutely not on my own here, and to my disappointment, I wasn’t the worst – the most dramatic, possibly, but not the worst. I may have kicked and screamed throughout many airports on my various holiday exploits, but I always boarded that aircraft, because the dreams of what memories I could make at the other side pulled me on board – Some of these guys had only ever dreamt of being able to get on an aeroplane; some hadn’t flown for decades. Frozen with fear.
I was greeted by Mark Wein, who instantly put me at as much ease as was humanly possible under the circumstances as I shuffled into the filled room, took a seat at the back and prayed that this wouldn’t require too much social interaction. The show was about to begin.
Lawrence Leyton, Fearless Flyer Host and Therapist, took to the stage. Firstly, I would like to say, that this was a completely different form than I had expected. I had horrible visions of a soft spoken therapist floating about sensitively, who would force us into group cuddling and tearfully sharing near death flight experiences with each other in a group participation sort of set up.
I was wrong! I did not feel like an unfixable Humpty Dumpty, nor did I feel that anyone thought my fears were stupid or invalid (although I came to that conclusion myself by the end of the course). I actually enjoyed what was unravelling on that stage. It was well presented, modern, well worthy of a giggle, practical and useful!
Lawrence is the man who changes perspectives. He takes the world in one of his charismatic hands and flips it upside down, leaving you wondering ‘what just happened?’
Enter stage left, Captain Chris Foster, Senior easyJet Pilot. This is the practical bit. Captain Chris is cool, calm and collected. Exactly the sort of person you would be happy to fly your plane. Unflappable, knowledgable and he has all the answers.
We were able to put our technically related questions to Chris. At this point, my morbid sense of humour kicked in as I realised I was sitting in a room with a group of very similar people to myself, as we discussed about one hundred different ways to die on an aircraft that not even I had managed to come up with on my own. Captain Chris handled all of the questions with respect and technical and mechanical facts as to why the wings of an aircraft won’t just fall off. (That was my question. Thanks Captain Chris).
It was quite an intensive three hours, but it was good fun and held my interest. But when all was said and done, was this really going to ‘fix’ me?
Lawrence said something during the course that stuck with me; he said that at some point, either sitting in that room, or on the way to the airport terminal, or even boarding the plane, something will ‘click’ and I will realise that something is different now. ‘All a bit Derren Brown’ thinks I, but I like a bit of drama, so I went with it.
Nothing clicked. It should have ‘clicked’. Usually by the time I have entered the airport security barriers, someone has got bitten or I have tried to escape out a fire exit – but I sauntered through, not yet realising that I had missed the first ‘click’. My biggest inconvenience was having to take my boots off to get through into the departure lounge and wondering if that big full body scanner had just scanned me down to the nip and should I avoid eye contact with the person behind the computer screen?
I shuffled on through and ordered my pre-flight snack – “Could I have a Chai Soy Latte, extra hot and a skinny blueberry muffin please?”
CLICK! There it was! I had my ‘Click’ moment that Lawrence spoke about. One word. SKINNY. Ever heard of a condemned prisoner asking for a low calorie meal for his last supper? Not a chance! There we had it. Somewhere in my mind, Lawrence had slipped in and rewired the system. I must have had an expectation of landing alive on the tarmac after our Fearless Flyers flight, because let me tell you something, if I ever catch wind of a rumour that I am about to kick the bucket, I’ll not be placing an order for a ‘skinny’ anything!
I sat on that plane without tears or tantrums. The flight was a fantastic way to round off all the ground work. Captain Chris talked us through all the going on’s and little hums and murmurs of the aircraft as we took to the skies. Lawrence and Mark were on hand too.
We hit a little air pocket as we soared higher, I started to keek myself a wee bit; Mark must have smelt fear (not literally my dignity is delighted to confirm), because by the time I came out from behind the protective piece of hair that I had pulled over my face, there he was, sitting reassuringly beside me for a little pep talk during my blimp of confidence. I thought to myself, ‘I could fly anywhere in the world if these guys would fly with me.’ And as if by magic, a little MP3 player came hurtling towards me! “Now you can take Lawrence and the Captains commentary away with you on every flight!” This little nugget of reassurance will be coming with me on every flight I ever have to take. It has 8 tracks including a summery of take off and landing (my worst bits!) – It is one million times worth purchasing, especially if you’re not flying every week and you need to keep your new found state of tranquility at the forefront of your mind!
I will probably always prefer to have my feet on the ground, and preferably in a pair of fashionable shoes; but you know, I did just fine! I fly to Hamburg in two weeks… How exciting!
If you suffer from a fear of flying, pop over to easyJet’s website for the Fearless Flyers course and check out the dates and locations. An online course is also available! When the chains fall off, the world really is your oyster! Happy adventures! https://fearlessflyer.easyjet.com/