Turbulence can be frightening. However, the reality is that turbulence is no cause for concern! It’s a common part of flying that many people experience each day. Even when it’s at its most severe, turbulence is rarely dangerous.
Having said that, when the plane that you’re flying on suddenly moves and dips while soaring at 37,000 feet in the air, we can’t blame you for feeling at least a little bit uneasy.
That’s why we atAlternative Airlineshave come up with 10 useful tips that will help you overcome your fear of turbulence and put you at ease on your next flight.
1) Understand why turbulence occurs
Turbulence can be caused by a number of things. It may be air in the atmosphere, jet streams that trigger changes in the wind, flying above mountains or tall buildings that change the wind flow in the sky above or something else that can cause the airflow to change. Regardless of the cause, it’s important to remember that turbulence is caused by a change in the airflow and not because something is wrong with the aircraft itself.
2) Know the facts and stats
A lot of the anxiety around turbulence comes from people assuming the worst and thinking that turbulence will cause their plane to crash.
In reality, even the most severe turbulence almost never causes plane crashes. The last time that turbulence was determined as the main cause of a plane crash was in 1966, over 50 years ago!
Since then, modern-day engineering and advanced technology have given pilots a better understanding of when to expect turbulence, allowing them to take alternative routes to avoid it. What’s more, improved designs of modern-day aircraft has allowed the planes of today to better deal with and be less susceptible to the effects of turbulence.
According to America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on average, there are 33 injuries caused by turbulence in the US each year (2002–2018). When you consider that more than 959 million passengers fly to and from the US each year, you get a great understanding of how small the danger of turbulence really is.
3) Buckle up
While it’s important to stick to the rules and fasten your seatbelt any time that the seatbelt sign is on, it’s especially important to keep it fastened during periods of turbulence, regardless of how light or extreme the turbulence may seem.
Although turbulence isn’t going to force you entirely out of your seat, you might momentarily lift up and shift side to side. Fastening your seatbelt will minimise the impact of this and ensure that you don’t hurt yourself or those around you.
4) Have faith in your pilot
Not only are pilots highly-skilled and expertly trained to fly through turbulence, but as mentioned previously, the pilots of today also have an excellent understanding of the weather conditions for each flight route before they take-off thanks to modern technology.
Before every flight, pilots will study the forecast of the flight route and, when possible, change their course to avoid areas with extreme turbulence.
5) Breathing exercises
If you do experience turbulence and feel yourself begin to panic, controlling your breathing is a great way to calm yourself down and prevent you from any further distress.
Licensed Psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, Christine Scott-Hudson, recommends a specific breathing exercise that stimulates your vagus nerve, “you can stimulate your Vagus Nerve by taking deep, long breaths. Allow your diaphragm to expand your belly as you breathe. The vagus nerve is an activator of your Parasympathetic Nervous System or PNS for short. Your PNS is responsible for keeping you safe and alive and it handles all of the bodily processes that you don't even have to think about, like controlling your heart-rate, helping you digest food, and getting a good night's sleep.
Let your exhale be twice as long as your inhale to help you relax. Breathe in through your nose and breath out through your mouth. Your deep, long breaths stimulate your vagus nerve and spark your PNS to release acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of general well-being and safety.”
6) Do an activity to put your mind elsewhere
If the turbulence isn’t too severe, try and focus your mind on something else like reading a book, enjoying the in-flight entertainment or even a word puzzle or sudoku. By forcing your mind to focus elsewhere, the turbulence will most likely pass without you even realising.
7) Sit in a seat that is good for avoiding turbulence
While turbulence itself is sometimes unavoidable, you can pre-book a seat so that you’re sat in an area of the plane that is less affected by turbulence.
The best seats for turbulence
Thebest seatsfor turbulence are at the front of or at the wings of the plane.
The impact of turbulence is felt less at the front of the plane because it’s beyond the centre of gravity on the aircraft. Alternatively, turbulence is also less noticeable near the wings of the plane because the wings allow the plane to stay balanced.
The best plane for turbulence
There’s no specific rule or data that supports that one aircraft model is better than another at dealing with turbulence. However, generally, the larger the plane, the better it is at absorbing turbulence. For example, due to the sheer size, aircraft like theAirbus A380and Boeing 747 are said to be two of the best planes for coping with turbulence.
That’s not to say that bigger planes are always better at dealing with turbulence, though. For example, early models of the Boeing 757 — which is one of the largest planes used on short-haul flights — has a history of being susceptible to turbulence.
Tip:At Alternative Airlines, you can see which aircraft you’ll be flying on when you book your flight.
8) Fly at times when turbulence is less severe
As well as sitting in certain areas of the plane, you might also want to consider flying at times when turbulence tends to be less severe.
Best time to fly to avoid turbulence
According to airline captain, Laura Einsetler, early in the morning is the best time to fly to avoid turbulence. She told us “The key to turbulence avoidance is to take very early flights. The air is normally much smoother because it is cooler and denser."
9) Avoid the most turbulent flight routes
If you need or want to visit a certain destination and turbulence on that flight route is common, you might have no choice but to take that flight route and deal with the turbulence.
However, if you’re looking to go away and haven’t decided where you want to visit, it might be a good idea to choose a destination that requires you to take a flight route with not much turbulence. For example, statistically, flights that stay away from the equator and fly over large areas of water or flat areas of land experience less turbulence than those that don’t.
Tip:Take a look at our page on the most and least turbulent flight routes for more information.
10) Speak to your doctor
If you’re really worried about turbulence, ask for advice from your doctor. They might be able to advise you with some breathing and mental exercises to help better deal with the anxiety and, in some cases, might prescribe you with anti-anxiety and anti-nausea medication that will help you overcome the fear of turbulence.
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How do you deal with fear of turbulence? ›
In case of turbulence and feeling anxious, take deep breaths in through your nose and exhale slowly. This will help you to reduce fear of turbulence flying and will allow you to remain calm during the flight.How do you get comfortable with turbulence? ›
- Demystify turbulence. ...
- Learn about built-in safety features. ...
- Study your plane crash history. ...
- Talk to your flight attendants. ...
- Take a flying lesson. ...
- Pick a seat that helps you avoid your trigger. ...
- See a therapist. ...
- Find a distraction that works.
Sometimes it's unavoidable to fly through light and moderate turbulence, but rest assured your pilots are working to find smooth air. If they encounter severe or extreme turbulence not forecasted, pilots will quickly climb or descend to a safe and smooth altitude.”What do flight attendants say when there is turbulence? ›
Turbulence is due to irregular atmospheric motion that results in the jolting of the aircraft. When turbulence is anticipated or suddenly encountered, the Captain will turn on the FASTEN SEATBELT sign. If turbulence is severe, the Captain will make an announcement “Flight Attendants please be seated”.What can I take to calm my nerves when flying? ›
Anti-anxiety medication, such as diazepam (Valium) or alprazolam (Xanax). Motion sickness medication, such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine).Can you avoid turbulence? ›
Ordinarily, this can be avoided by flight at higher altitudes. When the larger convection currents form cumulus clouds, the pilot will invariably find smooth air above the cloud level. Avoiding turbulence caused by convection currents by flying above the cloud level.Why are people afraid of turbulence? ›
Turbulence isn't dangerous. It just feels like it is. Turbulence triggers the release of stress hormones, which build up and cause physical sensations associated with danger. Feelings associated with danger can lead us to believe we are in danger, even when we are not.How do you fly a plane in turbulence? ›
According to the FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook (8-18), "for landing in turbulent conditions, use a power-on approach at an airspeed slightly above the normal approach speed. This provides for more positive control of the airplane when strong horizontal wind gusts, or up and down drafts, are experienced."How well can planes handle turbulence? ›
The most important thing to know is that turbulence isn't dangerous. It might be a bit uncomfortable, but your plane is built to handle the worst. Even in the most severe turbulence, your plane isn't moving nearly as much as you think!How do airline pilots avoid turbulence? ›
Pilots determine the area and altitude of light to extreme turbulence with weather forecasting tools such as AIRMETs and SIGMETs, as well as actual pilot reports, or PIREPs. Pilots can request routing or altitude changes to avoid these areas of turbulence if it is too uncomfortable or unsafe.
Do pilots get nervous during turbulence? ›
Those irregular motions in the atmosphere create air currents that can cause passengers on an airplane to experience annoying bumps during a flight, or it can be severe enough to throw an airplane out of control. "(The pilots) aren't scared at all. It's all a part of aviation," United Airlines pilot Rob Biddle said.What part of the plane do you feel the most turbulence? ›
“The roughest spot is usually the far aft. In the rearmost rows, closest to the tail, the knocking and swaying is more pronounced,” Smith added. The impact of turbulence is also felt less at the front of the plane because it's beyond the centre of gravity on the aircraft.What are the most turbulent months to fly? ›
Winter and summer are the most turbulent months to fly. During winter, there are strong winds and blizzards. During the peak of summer when it is very hot, convection turbulence occurs, especially when flying over cities and mountains during midday.Where should I sit on a plane with anxiety? ›
Try sitting in an aisle seat in an exit row towards the front of the plane. These seats typically have more legroom, are easier to get out of, and also reduce the number of other passengers in your view, making the space feel less crowded.Can a plane drop during turbulence? ›
When an aircraft experiences turbulence, the plane can drop or change altitude suddenly. This is why pilots always caution passengers to buckle up and stay seated when they are experiencing flight turbulence.Can a plane fall during turbulence? ›
USA TODAY's pilot expert says most bumpy flights, you're only going down a few feet. And by a few he says most times it less than 100 feet. Of course 100 feet is a 10 story building and you're going up and down! He says humans notice the rate of change more than the actual change itself.What's the safest place to sit on a plane? ›
In the middle, at the back
Nonetheless, a TIME investigation that looked at 35 years of aircraft accident data found the middle rear seats of an aircraft had the lowest fatality rate: 28%, compared with 44% for the middle aisle seats. This logically makes sense too.
A seat directly over the wings (typically found in rows 10 to 30) is your best option to reduce the sensation of turbulence, says Dr. Quay Snyder, the president of the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service.Where should I sit for less turbulence? ›
The best seat on the plane to avoid turbulence is either over the wings or towards the front of the aircraft. The wings of the plane keep it balanced and smooth, whereas the tail of the aircraft can bounce up and down more. The closer a passenger is to the front of the plane the less turbulence they would usually feel.How do planes survive turbulence? ›
Normally, pilots try to avoid areas of heavy turbulence using the weather radar system, which scans the area ahead of the aircraft. The pilots use the radar to fly deviation maneuvers many times, reducing severe turbulence.
What causes the most turbulence? ›
But the most common turbulence experienced by flyers has three common causes: mountains, jet streams, and storms. Just as ocean waves break on a beach, air also forms waves as it encounters mountains.How do pilots know turbulence is coming? ›
Using weather radar
Most commercial aircraft now pack weather radar – from the Airbus A321 to the Boeing 777. Weather radar can pick up weather systems sufficiently ahead to warn of precipitation and turbulence, allowing the fast-moving aircraft to divert in time to equally protect the humans and the aircraft.
If you take a flight late in the day, the ground has had more time to heat up, which can cause "bumpier air" and lead to turbulence onboard. In fact, there are more chances of there being a thunderstorm in the afternoon compared to the morning, which can make a rough flight even worse.Can a good pilot avoid turbulence? ›
Pilots are capable of identifying areas of potential turbulence by using their knowledge of meteorology and weather patterns. One of the simplest ways we avoid turbulence is by avoiding areas with thunderstorms. Convective activity is associated with unstable air, as well as strong updrafts and downdrafts.Can a plane survive turbulence? ›
The most important thing to know is that turbulence isn't dangerous. It might be a bit uncomfortable, but your plane is built to handle the worst. Even in the most severe turbulence, your plane isn't moving nearly as much as you think!How long does plane turbulence last? ›
Periods of turbulence last an average of only 10 to 15 minutes, though it may seem like an eternity. Dr. Chris Manno, a pilot, professor, author, and current Boeing 737 captain for a major U.S. airline, is trained to deal with turbulence, but notes that airplanes are just as primed to take whatever weather is ahead.Can turbulence damage a plane? ›
In extreme turbulence, the airplane is tossed violently about and is impossible to control. It may cause structural damage. Aircraft is violently tossed about and practically impossible to control. May cause structural damage.Can turbulence be eliminated? ›
By carefully selecting the direction and strength of electromagnetic fields, the simulations showed that turbulence could be eliminated throughout a vessel's journey. The only variation needed in the field would be to account for how turbulent forces increase with the speed of the vessel.Where is the most turbulent place to fly? ›
- New York to London. One of the most popular routes which experience turbulence is flying from New York to London (and also London to New York). ...
- Seoul to Dallas. ...
- Flying into certain airports near the equator. ...
- Flying into Reno, Nevada. ...
- London to South Africa.
Those irregular motions in the atmosphere create air currents that can cause passengers on an airplane to experience annoying bumps during a flight, or it can be severe enough to throw an airplane out of control. "(The pilots) aren't scared at all. It's all a part of aviation," United Airlines pilot Rob Biddle said.
Is turbulence worse in front or back? ›
Fly early in the day and sit as far forward in the plane as you're able, says Heather Poole, a flight attendant for 21 years and author of the book Cruising Attitude. “Turbulence is worse at the back of the plane,” she says.Why do planes drop suddenly? ›
When an aircraft experiences turbulence, the plane can drop or change altitude suddenly. This is why pilots always caution passengers to buckle up and stay seated when they are experiencing flight turbulence.What plane is best for turbulence? ›
However, generally, the larger the plane, the better it is at absorbing turbulence. For example, due to the sheer size, aircraft like the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 are said to be two of the best planes for coping with turbulence.Which part of the plane is worse for turbulence? ›
“The roughest spot is usually the far aft. In the rearmost rows, closest to the tail, the knocking and swaying is more pronounced,” Smith added. The impact of turbulence is also felt less at the front of the plane because it's beyond the centre of gravity on the aircraft.Can turbulence rip a wing off? ›
In a particularly turbulent storm, some may imagine that the wings bend so much, they could snap off. However that scenario is almost impossible. The entire aircraft is basically designed to allow the wings to bend in turbulence without compromising any structural integrity.