What do you do when your bags are packed, but you find yourself full of worry at the thought of getting on that plane? (Photo: Mosuno/Stocksy)
Not so long ago I was scheduled to fly on a budget European flight to Cyprus. I packed my bags and printed my boarding passes, but this time something was different. It was just a few weeks after the fatal crash of Germanwings flight 4U9525 that killed 150, including 16 children on a school trip. Suddenly, I didn’t know what to do. Should I cancel the trip?
Like so many other travelers, I’d imagined the terrible scene onboard, as that routine flight turned into a tragedy. I couldn’t stop thinking about those children flying without their parents. Since becoming a parent 11 years ago, I’d started to feel fear creeping in during the time when normally I’d be arranging my magazines in the seat-back pocket and pulling on my flight socks.
Yes, along with the devastating emotional impact of the deaths of all those people, one has to remember the context in which the crash occurred — the remote possibility of crashes, today’s overall safety record of airlines, the overwhelming benefit of flying.
As a journalist and blogger, I wrote about my feelings for my family travel blog Jenography.net, and it struck a nerve.
Flying-related concerns are often intensified when the safety of children and family members is involved. (Photo: Sally Anscombe/Stocksy)
I discovered that a lot of other parents felt the same way as I did, even with their own flights looming.
“The news did scare me like you, and I too thought about everyone involved,” wrote Mari, who blogs about family travel at Mari’s World, “but I have family flights to Spain over the holidays and there is no way I’ll be canceling them.”
“I really needed to read this today,” wrote one blogger called Honest Mum. “I fly on Saturday and you are so right, these things aren’t common.”
I also realized I wasn’t the only one suddenly struck by the trust we place in our pilots and airline crew, and how often that trust is warranted.
In the case of the Germanwings plane, the pilot Patrick Sondenheimer reportedly tried to break down the cockpit door with an axe even as the plane headed inexorably downwards. Crew on the ground repeatedly tried to contact the plane. These are the type of people who regularly hold our lives in their hands — dedicated, conscientious, trustworthy. We usually hear nothing about them because nothing goes wrong.
For the most part, we are helpless once we take our seats, and that’s OK.
“Like you, I put myself in the hands of the crew and switch off fear because otherwise I wouldn’t leave the UK again…,” said Mari.
Related: How to Conquer a Fear of Flying
Finding the wonder and beauty in flying can make it a much more relaxing and far less scary experience. (Photo: 13/Buena Vista Images/Ocean/Corbis)
“I am a little irrationally nervous,” wrote Helen who blogs at Fuss Free Flavours, “but know that there really is no need to be. I fly loads — in one job at least four flights a week — and I still really enjoy it, sitting by the window watching the clouds, or ground go by.”
Even Trish Burgess, a mother and friend who once experienced a mid-air near-miss, wrote, “We are only here once: I want to make the most of it and seeing other countries is something that I love to do.”
All fatal plane crashes are devastating. Shocking and disastrous ones have been much in the news over the past year or so: the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — all resulting in loss of life and questions about procedures and safety.
Air travel opens up a whole world of possibilities, experiences, and adventures. (Photo: RG&B Images/Stocksy)
At the same time, flying opens the world to us — we can go further, faster, and discover more places and people different to our life back home than we could any other way. Traveling connects us to the world and sometimes, through discovery, it also connects us to ourselves.
In the end, my family and I did fly to Cyprus, doing our usual checks after boarding — identifying the nearest exit, feeling for our under-seat floatation devices — and the flight went off without a hitch. This summer, we’ll board our annual long-haul flight to Texas to see family and friends, like we always do, and we plan to take some other European budget flights.
As one dad commented on my post, “We occasionally get Heathrow’s traffic over us and I simply reflect that each flight, every 90 seconds, is getting to its destination every hour of every day.”
That’s why, even in the wake of such tragedy, the big question for me and many of us remains, When can we book our next trip?
Jennifer Howze is a journalist and family travel blogger based in London. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+. She is cofounder of BritMums, the UK’s largest parent blogger network, and writes about family travel on Jenography.net. She has contributed travel articles to The Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, and Frommer’s Budget Travel, among others.
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