Have anxiety when it comes to flying? There's about to be help for that.

A fear of flying is surprisingly common – over 20 percent of people experience some sort of anxiety when it comes to going on an airplane. Though many people do, avoiding flying altogether can have a huge impact on modern life, both from a travel enjoyment and a career perspective.

That’s why Virgin Australia has teamed up with Smiling Mind to ease the stress on nervous flyers – by way of mindfulness.

“Travel anxiety is a huge problem. We know that on any given flight there is going to be a number of people feel really anxious, and often that’s in the lead up to the flight as well as on the flight,” Smiling Mind CEO, Dr Addie Wootten told Mamamia.

Now before you write off meditation woowoo or something that can’t possibly help anxiety, let’s look at the science.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, found 47 trials on the effectiveness of mindfulness on anxiety that met their criteria for well-designed studies. Their findings suggested that mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression and pain.

“Mindfulness is a precise that helps people to turn down the anxiety, to switch off the cortisol that’s released into our system and make sure that were breathing deeply and actually focusing on the present moment, rather than thinking about what might happen, which our mind is very capable of doing. So it helps to focus, and that focus helps to reduce anxiety,” Dr Wootten said.

The partnership sees Virgin Australia guests gain access to Smiling Mind guided meditations via the Inflight Entertainment System.


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The world’s first meditation flight with @virginaustralia & @smilingmind – plus some yoga with @sjanaelise

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“We asked ‘how do we help everyone to be more mindful and more and more present and to look after themselves?’,  and so we are bringing meditation onto the inflight system in all Virgin flights. We’re also offering our workplace program to all of the staff – so 10,00 Virgin and Tiger Air employees will have access to our mindfulness programs.”

Virgin also announced a new way for anxious travellers to self-identify with the airline prior to travelling. From 2019, flight goers will be able to identify as having feelings of travel-related anxiety before they fly, leading to personalised communications in the lead up to their journey, and face-to-face interactions while onboard the aircraft.

When quizzed on why wellness initiatives were so important to Sir Richard Branson for both his customers and his staff, Sir Branson said that caring for people is a non-negotiable.

“We spend a lot of our lives at work, maybe 70 or 80 or percent, and our lives should be enjoyable. I think that things like flexible working, or realising that people’s physical and mental heath are important, and looking after people who have got crisis at home, all of these things are absolutely critical,” Sir Branson told Mamamia.

Here’s hoping this inspired other airlines and work places to follow suit.