Dear Captain Lim,
I have a fear that when the plane door closes, I might panic because I have a problem with closed-in places that I can not get out of.
Now I really have a problem because when they have an over lay, they let you stay in the plane for a long time.
PLEASE HELP... MY FAMILY WOULD APPRECIATE IT TOO.
Most people who are afraid of flying do not necessary face the same kind of fear like you do. They are usually more worried about the issues related to the safety of the flight. You are among the group that suffers from claustrophobia - a fear of enclosed spaces.
Well, you are not alone. About a third of all fearful flyers are believed to be claustrophobics.
Why is claustrophobia a problem on airplanes? Well, when we don't have control of the situation when the doors are closed, we try to get more control. If that fails, the natural (or primitive) reactions are to fight, freeze or flight. On an airplane, these don't really work.
Some passengers "fight" by getting obnoxious with the flight attendants or bother other passengers. Others freeze and have difficulty breathing and start to panic. Yet others would go on a "flight" - they can't run away physically but they try to run away mentally.
What can be done to alleviate this "fight or flight" response?
I am not a clinical psychologist like my friend (Les Posen) in Melbourne is, but here are some facts to soothe your fear a little.
If you think that the airplane is an enclosed place and you're going to have difficulty getting off if you wanted to... well, the truth is that airplanes cabin is not really an enclosed space. Air from the outside does enter the airplane - it gets through the air conditioning packs; this air is then mixed with re-circulated air from the cabin and then fed through the vents for your comfort.
If you feel you are trapped, get out of your seat and take a walk in the cabin - it is quite a large area when you explore it. Even a medium-size plane like a Boeing 737-900 has 1120 square feet of interior space and an Airbus A320 has 1170 square feet. That's as big as some houses. Many planes like the Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777 and Airbus A330/340/380 are even larger. Try to tell yourself that you are cruising along in a house or large hall (A380).
Another great thing you could do is to think about the flight before you get on the airplane. Thinking about it might make you feel comfortable since your brain will be expecting the flight.
Try to relax before boarding the plane, wear loose and comfortable clothing and listen to some nice and relaxing music. It is really a question of mind over matter. Get a good and engrossing book or even watch the in-flight movie. Basically, try to be as relaxed as possible and not think about it.
Regarding your long overlay, the plane would be on the ground somewhere in the terminal. There would be ground air-conditioning and the cabin doors are normally open or connected to the aerobridge.
If the above does not help much, you can consult Les Posen by visiting his site at FlightWise.
Wish you a pleasant and spacious flight.