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How to tackle fear of flying in the new Covid world

COVID-19 is here to stay and the world is adjusting to life amidst a global pandemic. We are adapting our behaviour, being scrupulously hygienic and slowly learning how to navigate this new normal.

Life goes on and some are taking to the skies once more, for work, visiting close family and friends or to track down that elusive winter sun.

But there is some serious anxiety at play and a huge demand for a trusted, independent source of information and advice relating to COVID-19 safety.
Even before COVID-19 took hold, studies showed that over a third of Brits were more scared of flying compared to 10 years ago, so it’s no wonder that the face masks, PPE and general air of mistrust among fellow passengers has upped the fear factor.
Martin Lindstrom, a behavioural psychologist, New York Times best-selling author and (once) frequent flyer has launched a new COVID-safe travel tips e-book titled “Travel Truth and Lies Unmasked”. It is free to download, available in multiple languages and now as a podcast.

The book is a fascinating and highly-entertaining read full of great – and gruesome – facts and figures. But more importantly, it shuns the scaremongering in favour of a practical guide on how to travel safely and manage the many anxieties that surround air travel, in particular. Here are Martin’s top ten tips…

1. Pack wisely. Try to pack all your baggage in one carryon suitcase, avoiding the risk of acquiring those nasty microbes on checked-in luggage.

2. If you can, book a window seat in business class. If not, book a seat right at the back of the plane: this is the safest spot on the plane, both in terms of crashes (remember this is where the black box is stored) and also due to air circulation. There are fewer passengers frequenting this area, thus fewer people passing by

3. Always check the status of the country you’re visiting: the infection rate and their travel restrictions. Do also check airport and airline protocol: minimum check-in times, whether you can expect time-consuming document checks and – in some countries – there may be health checks too

4. Don’t view the airport as a theme park or shopping centre. Times have changed. So no browsing around duty free, just walk straight to your gate

5. Wash your hands…all the time…and then again. Consider your phone an extension of your hand, so sanitise that regularly too

6. Wear your mask during your entire trip. When eating or drinking, hand it around your neck, don’t put it down

7. Once on-board, don’t touch the top of the seats while getting in or out of your seat. Hundreds of passengers will have used them as navigation crutches, acting semi-blindfolded, touching every seat-top the whole way back to seat 57F!  

8. As soon as you’ve sat down, crack out the wet wipes and do a quick clean of the most essential touch points including the seatbelt buckle, armrest (top and underneath), tray table lock, actual tray table and touch screens. But please, please think green: so many of the ‘paper based’ wipes actually contain plastic and are completely non-biodegradable. There are wipes out there that have not been laminated in this way and genuinely recyclable

9. Always wear shoes when going to the lavatory. You wouldn’t believe that 20% of passengers visit the lavatories without shoes and – like a sponge – their in-flight socks absorb just about everything that’s been sprinkled, dripped, and dropped on the floor!

10. Sanitise your hands and passport immediately after leaving border control. Just remember: on any given day, more than 235,000 passengers and their passports go through each of the ten largest international airports. Passport control is the most contagious place to spend your time Follow these ten top tips and you can feel safe in the knowledge that you’ve done all you can to steer clear of COVID.

Martin says most of the above is common sense and likely now ingrained in our day-to-day habits anyway.

“It is often the case that the spots we perceive as most contaminated are the most hygienic, simply due to the caution we exercise.
“It’s worth remembering that the air quality in an aeroplane is of the same cleanliness as an Intensive Care Unit: far cleaner than any other mode of transport. Also, anything you’ll encounter on an aeroplane is likely far cleaner than what lurks in your handbag or on your wallet on a day to day basis. It’s all about changing our behaviour to make these new hygienic routines ingrained habits, rather than daily inconveniences.”

Travel, Truth and Lies Unmasked eBook is available in multiple languages as a free download, and also in podcast audio at

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