Thursday, 22 September 2016

Course worked for me and still is

When people come on our course, there is often the question, 'Does it work?'
We have answered this as well as we can over the years.  The short answer is YES.   Not only does it work for the vast majority of people that attend, it tends to stick too.  Not 100% of people experience this massive shift quickly.  For most people, the course works best when it is combined with other things. When the course is treated as part of a process of beating the fear. 
When it does help people, it is enormously rewarding for us but more importantly, it gives people choices of how they travel. Please see a couple of lovely emails we have received this week:
Dear Virgin Fear of Flying Team

I am writing to you to say a massive thank you for changing my life in ways I could not imagine possible.

This letter has been a long time coming but, as we have already passed the 10th Anniversary of my attendance at the course and are approaching my upcoming flight to and from Orlando on Virgin Atlantic it appears to be the right time to contact you and let you know 'what difference a day makes.'

Prior to my attendance on the course on 23 April 2006, I was afraid to fly. I was stuck in an abusive relationship with someone who like to control where I went and what I did and it appeared that would be my future from the age of 25 onwards.

My parents however had other ideas and for my 25th Birthday they discussed with me the option of doing your Flying without Fear course and I agreed to attend. On my birthday I received a letter saying that I was booked on the course on 23 April 2006 at Manchester Airport.

I attended the course with low expectations, as you do not believe that fears can be conquered or at least tamed in such a short time period. However, it is nice to be proved wrong from time to time. I recall each part of the day in great details, the introduction, the Captains JJ and Dom, David and my team leader Paul. Even now, when I take off on a flight I can hear Paul's advice to 'drop your shoulders and relax'!

When you leave the course on the day, you know that something in your life has shifted but at the time it is hard to quantify. For me, it was enabling me to find confidence – not only to fly and visit beautiful places around the world which I thought would not be possibly but also to change your life.

I recall going back to work and booking my first trip away – with my mum to Vienna. A postcard was sent to the FWF team and all was well. I recall we had contacted Special Assistance and the cabin crew who had been assigned to look after me said that it appeared I had no issues at all and was a lot more calm and relaxed than many other frequent flyers.

However, the biggest change which came from your course related to my personal life. I remember one of my colleagues asking 'What exactly did they do to you on that course? You are a different person, more positive and ready to face challenges'. Having opened up a new world to me, I wanted to try more experiences and booked a holiday with a friend to Berlin – this friend is now my husband.  It gave me the confidence to leave my former partner and be with someone to explore the world and try new things – so much so we visited Europe three times in a nine month period when we first got together.

Your course meant that I could fly and, following a flight to Vienna my then boyfriend was able to propose to me in front of my favourite painting in my favourite city; it meant we could fly to the states and drive down the Pacific Coast Highway for our honeymoon.

So here we are, ten years later and I am treating my husband (in anticipation of this 40th Birthday next year) to a once in a lifetime trip with my favourite airline to go to Orlando to celebrate his favourite time of year – Halloween. As it is a special celebration ( I will be celebrating my 10 year Virgin anniversary too but don't tell him that!) , I have even splashed out to fly Upper Class on the way out, sadly it was out of my price range to do so on the return flight.

We flew with Virgin in Premium Economy in 2014 and it was a wonderful experience – the staff were kind, courteous and always helpful so it makes perfect sense that for our special trip we would choose them again.

Without your help, this would not be happening and I am sure that my life would have taken a very different path had it not been for that spring day at Manchester Airport in 2006. I will be eternally grateful for the way in which your team have changed my life for the better.
So, all I can say is thank you Virgin. I will continue to sing your praises for the next ten years and beyond. You are the greatest and I will be forever in your debt for opening up the world to me and my family.
Kate C

Hi I did my course April 13 2014 and I'm currently flying to Norway thanks to all your help . I flew to Iceland September 2014 as well which was great. Attached is a photo from the plane.
Cheers.    Sonja M

Best wishes,
Paul & Richard
Future Dates
PREMIUM: Gatwick Nov 6th; Manchester Nov 13th; Heathrow Dec 4th; Leeds Feb 5th; (Birmingham & Southampton TBC)
CHILDREN: Gatwick Nov 6th; Heathrow Dec 4th.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Special blog for David Landau

This blog is to recognise and savour the work of a very special friend, mentor and colleague David Landau.  David was part of the original set up team at Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear in November 1997. 

David worked as a psychotherapist on our courses for approximately 12 years. Some of our fear of flying attendees described him as the 'voice of chocolate.'  (His amazing and relaxing voice can still be heard on-board some of the Virgin aircraft on the fear of flying channel.) 

A mutual friend, Neil French (internationally known hypnotherapist and trainer), has dedicated a webpage to keep David's work alive.  Here is the link

On a personal note, the team here at flying without fear are very fond of David and he is sorely missed. He taught us so much about how the brain works and how it deals with fear. Aside from that, he gave his time and wisdom willingly as he was dedicated to helping people live a life without limitations. There are literally thousands of people in the world that are now living fuller lives after meeting him at his clinic in Teddington or, with us at an airport hotel somewhere...  

The team spend hours driving around the country to our different venues. We often relied on David to keep us entertained  (and awake) with his humour which tended to range from dry/subtle/sophisticated through to outrageous/shocking/rude! 

David Landau. 29.09.1931 - 1.03.2016

Paul & Richard

Friday, 2 September 2016

Redundancy and recent news


When we run our fear of flying courses, this is a word that our pilot speakers use all the time that causes confusion around the room sometimes. In the rest of the world, this word means a job ending. Not particularly a good thing.  In commercial aviation safety training, it means something else - a very good thing.

When our pilots talk about redundancy, they are referring to how much back  up and extra capacity there is within commercial aircraft.  There is no one single thing going wrong that will cause the catastrophe that a nervous flyer imagines will happen.  Everything on the aircraft has back ups.  There are alternate systems to cover anything if, in the unlikely event, anything  untoward should happen...2 - 4 pilots, 2 - 4 autopilot computers with software from different suppliers, extra hydraulics, manual back ups.... the list goes on and on.

Recent news headline this week!

Passenger jet makes emergency landing in Ireland with 16 injured...
We have read the media coverage and it is riddled with inaccuracies.   Unexpected turbulence of a severe nature is thankfully really, really rare. However, the aircraft is not in danger. If you are strapped into your seat, no harm will come to you.  The aircraft can sometimes change altitude quickly but it does not move that much. A three foot change in altitude would be enough to discombobulate you if you were stood up and not expecting it.  Main message, don't believe everything that you read.  If you ever have been in actual severe turbulence, you are in a very rare group. It is exceptionally unlikely to happen. On our courses, we talk about this in a lot more depth so please accept our apologies if this seems a 'little light' on the explanation front.

Thank you!

I attended your course in January last year on the windiest day at Leeds/Bradford airport – flying usually consisted of a max two hour flight prompted by I discovered unfounded fears. Just to let you know I have been on 6 flights in the last 2 weeks travelling to Sydney/Melbourne and Kuala Lumpar – your course is brilliant and without it I would never have achieved this!
Many thanks
Deborah B

Best wishes,
Paul & Richard

Future Dates
PREMIUM: Gatwick Nov 6th; Manchester Nov 13th; Heathrow Dec 4th; Leeds Feb 5th.
GROUND: Heathrow Sept 18th; Bristol Sept 25th.
CHILDREN: Gatwick Nov 6th; Heathrow Dec 4th.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Janine's story

This is a true story of how Janine, one of our team leaders, beat her own fear of flying.... Hope you like it...You will often see Janine helping out on our courses now, helping others to beat their fears too.
I think my fear of flying must have started when I was a child. I went on a flight at the age of 5 to Jersey for a family holiday, although I remember the holiday like it was yesterday, I don't remember anything about the actual flights.

My mum didn't really like flying, so as a family we never went abroad, my Dad would travel for business and managed to get Mum on a few trips, but not until I was much older. By this time I had grown up with Mum telling me how much I hated flying as the flight to Jersey had apparently hurt my ears and the longer this went on, the greater my fear of flying became. What I was afraid of I don't really know! 

I was happy holidaying in Cornwall and doing the 12 hour train journey to the south of France, I didn't even have an interest in travelling that much as I never challenged the thought that I could fly. After my Dad died I looked at a few aspects of my life and my apparent fear of flying was one of them. A friend pushed me into attending a flying without fear course. I didn't really want to go and spent most of the morning telling myself and anyone that would listen that I was not going to do the flight at the end of the day.

As the day went on, the team were great, really caring and I didn't feel any pressure to do anything I didn't want to do. The course has a psychology session that was really helpful, they even sat with me and took time one to one to talk things through. (Although I didn't manage to get on the flight that day, I was able to get right to the aircraft before it all got too much and I was taken back to the terminal to wait for the others to return).

I went away with determination that I hadn't really had before and re thought my plan, by this time, the course had done enough to actually change my way of thinking, this wasn't any way to live, there is so many amazing places to visit, so many things I have been missing out on, trips with My late Dad, friends and family.

My next move involved visiting a local flying club Take Flight Aviation in Warwickshire with the thinking that I might feel more in control in a small plane. The boss of the business happened to be there and took pity on me and suggested he take me on a five minute circuit to start with. It actually took the guys two hours to get me in the plane, but we went off and did a circuit it felt OK so we ventured a few miles further and went off around Stratford upon Avon. In the following weeks, I went back and did a few more local flights.

My next step was booking myself on the flight only part of the next flying without fear course in Birmingham, this time I went on my own, of my own choice, I was more relaxed and managed to do the flight, it was an amazing feeling to have actually done it, after so many years of not even being able to look at an aircraft, to actually starting to enjoy it. I then booked the shortest flight I could find from Southampton to Jersey, and then back to Birmingham. 

Eventually I started being more adventurous Geneva then Greece, gradually building up to longer and longer flights. Along the way I even joined the flying club and started to have some flying lessons, and was able to go away with the flying club on some amazing trips in light aircraft, including island hopping in Greece and Ibiza, something that I had feared for years I was actually enjoying, so many great places to visit. 

You can see that my fear was quiet real and had been instilled in me over many years and the fact that I had overcome something that I thought impossible. This made me want to help others the way Virgin had helped me, so when I was sure I was over my fear, and there were a few hiccups along the way, I offered to help out on the courses. I think that having been in that situation, that other people who fly regularly may not appreciate fully, really helps me to help others. I understand their situation and how they are feeling, although everyones fear is different, because I'd been there myself. 

The Virgin course was the best thing I have ever done, it has literally changed my life and I would recommend it to anyone.

Janine Wheeler
Sintra Hair Plus

Future Dates
PREMIUM: Gatwick Nov 6th; Manchester Nov 13th; Heathrow Dec 4th; Leeds Feb 5th. GROUND: Heathrow Sept 18th; Bristol Sept 25th.
CHILDREN: Gatwick Nov 6th; Heathrow Dec 4th.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Please help me...

That is how the email started on Saturday morning.  'Please help me, I have run off from my flight and I feel so stupid. I can't believe I have let everyone down.  My family have had to fly off without me...'

This is a heart-breaking email to receive and we get a lot like this.  The message from us is this and it is very simple. Please don't be so hard on yourselves. We have seen literally thousands of people just like you beat their fears. It is never too late.  The most important things that you can do:
  • Not to be  too hard on yourselves.
  • Keep moving forwards towards the fear.
  • Remember, it is not a race. Beating a fear is a process that takes as long as it takes.
Here are a couple of messages of encouragement we wanted to share with you.
Hello, (Thanks by email) 

I was hoping you could post some feedback for me regarding the Manchester 2016 course in April. I can't seem to work out how to login..!

I found the course brilliant but I wanted to wait until I had put it to the test on my next flight before offering feedback. Well what can I say...following a return from Italy last week I can definitely say it made a huge difference. Using a combination of a visual 'STOP' sign in my mind every time a negative thought popped up, along with forcing myself to base my thoughts on the facts around me (ie. Cabin crew serving drinks and looking relaxed) made a huge difference and I felt much more in control and relaxed. My husband also noticed a big difference! It would be unrealistic to expect I will enjoy flying but was it as stressful and unpleasant as it has been previously? Nowhere near!
Many thanks to flying without fear team!

Best wishes,
Birmingham July 2016

I would like to say what a fantastic birthday present my wife gave to me.
Recent flights we had been on mostly to the Far East, I was relying on drugs to just get me on the plane, then the long flight. Oh what a difference a day makes, the team from Virgin were great I was greeted with an happy birthday song from the whole room which settled me down (also embarrassed). The team were fantastic, they made everyone feel at ease from start to finish, Austin our team member had great stories to tell about his time when stewarding. Austin ensured all of our team were OK throughout the day, also when on the flight. I must say I did not know how the day would pan out, it was great to get on a plane with out the tablets, I recommend this flight to anyone who is nervous about flying. As the team told us, we were not born with a fear of flying. Good luck to all the people.
Mike Cantrell


Well I don't know where to start but first I just want to say thank you.
After years of flying and having to take diazepam, trying to drink my way through it, putting headphones in with loud music on or just sitting the whole way with a blanket over my head I can honestly now say I am excited to go on holiday and It feels great.
The team answered every question we through at them and they explained everything thoroughly even with much needed humour.
I'm still laughing at ding dong...wings off... and will now remember this every time I hear it.

Big thank you to Ralph for how well he explained every part of the plane, the flight, the checks and for his invaluable commentary throughout the flight. Also big thank you to our team leader mark and his patience ( even if we did make him wait for us to have one last vape before getting on the plane.
I will recommend anyone to go on this course if they have a fear of flying and I'd only wished I'd done it sooner.

Thank you thank you thank you. I can't wait to go on holiday now and will definitely take all the tools given to me to use if I ever feel anxious again and getting close to a panic attack. My other half also says thank you as he may have the feeling in his hands throughout the flight now.
Jeni x

Best wishes,
Paul & Richard
Future Dates
PREMIUM: Gatwick November 6th; Manchester November 13th; Leeds February 5th. GROUND: Heathrow September 18th; Bristol September 25th.
CHILDREN: Gatwick November 6th

Monday, 18 July 2016

787 Dreamliner take off and landing YouTube Clips

Recently, we were lucky to be able to use one of Virgin's new Dreamliners on our fear of flying course at Heathrow. This particularly beautiful aircraft is amazing... can you imagine conquering your fear in such a gorgeous piece of machinery?!

The day was 10th July and it was a beautiful day which enabled one of our team leaders (and former nervous flyer) Chris Rolinson to take some footage of take off and landing.  Enjoy the footage and for those of you looking to remind yourself what happens at each stage of take off and landing, this is priceless.

Chris is an amazing musician of some note and we have been using some of his relaxing music on our courses.  Here is a link if you fancy listening...
Piano Meditations by Chris Rolinson.

YouTube Clips


Take care,

Paul & Richard
Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear

Future Dates

PREMIUM: Birmingham July 24th FULL; Gatwick November 6th; Manchester November 13th; Leeds February 5th.
GROUND: Bristol September 25th.
CHILDREN: Gatwick November 6th

Monday, 20 June 2016

Life changing - Thank you email

Dear Richard & Paul

I am a subscriber to the message board but, I hope you don't mind, I felt I would rather write to you directly. (If, for any reason you would like to use all/any of the below for any of your blogs or emails, please do so with my blessing. I would only ask that you use my first name only and rough location).

I thought you might be interested in hearing my story so, here goes (I have a feeling this might be a long one but I hope you'll bear with me). In addition to the story below, please see my question afterward. Thank you.

I was born in England in 1962 and, when my father obtained a job in Lagos, Nigeria in 1966, we (mother, father, sister and I) flew out - and returned - with B.O.A.C. on a VC10. Nothing remarkable happened and I remember the flights very well although I wasn't even 4 years old. My mother said there was nothing unusual about the flights. All good. Then, as I got older I developed claustrophobia with very severe related panic attacks. I wouldn't use lifts, travel by tube (I got stuck for over an hour between stations in the early '80s and didn't get on one again until the late '90s and that was only a few stops). I didn't like buses, being a car passenger, lifts... and, well, you get the picture.

My biggest fear, though, was flying. For me it was mainly the claustrophobia and being 'out of control'; 'I can't get off' and so on and also the 'usual' anxiety about being in an aircraft high in the air. I was known among friends and work colleagues as being a complete non-flyer. I have said to many people over the years "I will NEVER fly!". When I saw films, documentaries, football matches, even, where I knew that the participants had needed to fly to be involved, I felt ill - it was that bad.

However, over the years I realised (and was frequently told) that I was missing out on seeing the world "I don't WANT to see the world!" I would reply but, deep down I knew I wanted to see some of it - the USA particularly as I have an interest in American culture and history.

Fast forward to 2014…

I was 51 and, although my fears and anxieties were still there I decided to have at least one attempt at overcoming - or seeing if I could overcome - this fear which had been with me as long as I could remember. I did some online research on the various courses available and, after reading and viewing some of the testimonials and looking at some YouTube clips I logged on to your website to register. After some moments of personal doubt I registered for the next course nearest me: Gatwick Premium Course, 6th July 2014. I'd considered a ground course only but felt that, if I were to have any chance of overcoming this life-long fear that the chance to take a flight would be essential.

Come the day of the course I was, to be honest, not in good shape and as I left the house I said to my partner "what was I thinking?" and I drove to Gatwick feeling like a condemned man on his way to the gallows.

I didn't really know what to expect on the day, personally, (I had an idea, of course, from reading/viewing as mentioned above) but as soon as I walked in to the hotel where the course was being held, went through registration and met some of the other attendees and team members my outlook began to change. I was expecting to feel 'odd' but I quickly realised I was among like-minded people who, incidentally, had a variety of concerns about flying; some were like me, some were regular flyers who had developed anxieties/fears directly related to flying and some had never flown. I won't go in to too much detail about the course itself - I think it's important that anyone considering attending this does so with an open mind and 'goes with the flow'. I would say, though, although when we had a break about halfway through the day I didn't feel it was working for me and I couldn't put my finger on it. I approached Paul at this point and said "I'm not sure about this" and Paul was very reassuring with no pressure and suggested I just see how the rest of the course goes leading up to the flight. (There is NO pressure to fly at the end of the Premium Course).

After the break something, well, 'clicked' and I remember we were asked to write something positive down and I wrote, and underlined, "I CAN DO THIS". And, I did do it.

We took buses to Gatwick and went through the normal check-in, security and waiting at the Gate to board. Through these procedures (which, in the past if I'd seen on TV/in a film would had made me feel unwell) I kept waiting to feel anxious - it never came. I joined the queue to board - I was fine. Took my seat - fine. Waited for everyone to do the same - fine. Push-back - fine (incidentally, the running commentary from the cockpit - by a qualified pilot NOT flying the aircraft really helped). Taxi to runway and wait for clearance for take-off - fine. I had a window seat and as we went down the runway and took off I filmed it. Still, to my astonishment - fine! we climbed, we cruised, we flew over the Needles on the Isle of Wight (beautiful), we flew along the coast and turned back in over Brighton Pier (lit up by now) and, before I knew it we were landing back at Gatwick and, we were all fine. Loud applause, smiles and cheers on landing. Incredible. I had gone, in a matter of hours from "I will NEVER fly!" to having flown and it was the most wonderful experience.

Last year, 2015, my partner and I (who had, a few years ago attended a wedding in Portugal without me because I wouldn't fly) flew to Paris - and back, of course. I felt a bit anxious on the morning but the flight was a breeze. We had a very delayed flight coming back and, once again, I was not in the least bit anxious.

We thought of doing a slightly longer flight than Paris this year - maybe further in to Europe but I said "why don't we do New York City?". We got back last week. Flights were great (I felt anxious, I won't lie, on the outward trip after we took off but it passed after a few moments) but the flight was great and even a cancelled and delayed return flight didn't affect me in the slightest.

People who know me and know me well are astounded that I have gone from not flying to a trip to New York but I can honestly say I would never had done it - nor the Paris trip - if I hadn't attended the course. I would urge anyone, whatever their concern is: whether it is claustrophobia, fear of flying itself, or if you've had the concerns a short or a long time, do give this course a try. If I can get over 47 years of not flying then it is well worth trying a course for yourself.


So, Paul & Richard, there's my story and apologies for going on a bit.

Kind regards and with many thanks

John H

Future Courses
PREMIUM: Heathrow July 10th; Birmingham July 24th; Gatwick November 6th; Manchester November 13th; Leeds February 5th.
GROUND: Gatwick July 3rd.
CHILDREN: Heathrow July 10th; Gatwick November 6th