Flying is the safest way to travel, but that doesn’t mean no one is afraid of flying. In fact, it’s normal to be afraid of flying. The idea of being at the mercy of a machine that could malfunction and send you hurtling toward the ground can make anyone nervous.
Here’s the thing: You’re not alone.
Everyone has fears, and flying is one of them. But there are things you can do to feel more at ease, like checking out our list of Fear of Flying Statistics, which we’ve compiled from a variety of sources.
So take a deep breath and give it a read! You’ll be surprised by how many things you can do to make your trip go smoother, and you might even learn some new facts about flying that will make your next trip even more exciting than before.
But here’s the thing: flying isn’t actually as scary as it seems. Here are the latest fear of flying statistics that might help you feel better about your next trip (or just make you feel less alone).
General Fear of Flying Statistics
1. More than 25 million adults in the U.S. suffer from some level of aviophobia (fear of flying)
Well, it’s true. The number of Americans who suffer from aviophobia (fear of flying) is more than 25 million and growing. For most, it’s a minor fear, but for others, it can be debilitating.
For some people, flying is one of those things that just comes with territory. You have to do it, so you get on the plane, and then you’re off to your destination! But for many others, flying is a source of real anxiety and fear—which can make traveling difficult or even impossible.
If you’ve ever had a friend or family member who’s afraid to fly, you know that this fear can be crippling. It can keep them from going on vacation or visiting loved ones, and it can even prevent them from getting their dream job. And it can be incredibly frustrating for everyone else who has to listen to their worries about flying every time they’re ready to travel somewhere new.
The good news is that there are many ways to cope with aviophobia. You can get professional help or try out some self-help techniques on your own. Either way, it’s important to find the right method for you so you can start feeling more comfortable when you fly.
2. Between 33% and 40% of people have some anxiety about flying
(Washington Post, SagePub)
While not all people with concerns about flying would define themselves as suffering from “aviophobia”, between 33 and 40% of the population experience some form of anxiety when approaching a flight. This anxiety could be a slight feeling of nerves about a flight and may expand all the way to full-blown terror.
Around 60% of the population on average experience “generalized” anxiety both leading up to the flight and during the journey which they feel they can manage alone. Alternatively, between 2.5% to 5% of the population have crippling anxiety to the point of phobia.
3. 2.6% to 6.5% of people suffer from a fear of flying severe enough to be classified as a phobia
A report from TIME magazine reviewing various studies and reviews into the prevalence of aviophobia found fear of flying is one of the more common phobias.
Though some people only suffer from basic concerns, around 2.5% to 6.5% of travelers suffer from a fear significant enough to qualify for a clinical phobia diagnosis.
4. Refusal to fly decreased from 5% to 0.5% between 1986 and 2015
Research into the prevalence of flying phobias and common issues with flying is limited. However, many reports suggest fear of flying is one of the most common phobias, despite the fact that flight traffic has increased over the years. One report found that though fear of flying is still significant, it may be decreasing over time.
Between the years of 1986 and 2015, the percentage of people refusing to fly as a result of flying phobias decreased from around 5% to 0.5%.
The research also found there were around 11% of people who claimed to always use alcohol in 19865 when getting on a plane, compared to only 7.5% in 2015.
5. Between 2.5% and 40% of people experience flying anxiety each year
(Frontiers in Psychology)
A review posted by Frontiers in Psychology by the School of Behavioral, Cognitive, and Social Psychology highlights that the fear of flying and the anxiety caused by aviation is still not fully understood. According to the researchers, anywhere between 2.5% and 40% of people suffer from anxiety caused by aviation.
However, the reason for the broad range for the statistic is that it’s difficult to know for certain how many people suffer from fear of flying. Only a handful of people are officially diagnosed with a phobia, while countless people could suffer from some form of anxiety.
6. Triggers like bad weather and turbulence are most likely to make flying anxiety worse
(Frontiers in Psychology)
In the Frontiers in Psychology report published by Gavin I Clark and Adam J. Rock, the researchers note that certain situations and stimuli can make fear of anxiety feel more profound in those with a phobia or anxiety. The most common triggers for worsening anxiety are bad weather and the initial experience of take-off.
Many people suffering from fear of flying also suffer from additional anxiety during turbulence and can feel their anxiety worsen when they’re flying at popular times (during crowds), or dealing with delays in their schedule.
7. 20% of the population depends on alcohol or anxiolytics to fly
A report published in BMC Psychiatry into potential treatment options for the fear of flying found that approximately 20% of the population are dependent on alcohol or anxiolytics to fly. What’s more, around a quarter of the population will suffer from general anxiety when taking a flight, and another 10% avoid flying entirely due to their concerns.
The report further found that up to 7% of the population with a flight phobia experience acute interferences in their social life and everyday life as a result of their phobia. However, only around 7.8% of people with phobias seek help.
8. 90% of people with flight phobias believe they’ll be overwhelmed by fear during a flight
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) published a report highlighting important facts about the fear of flying. According to this report, most people with a phobia of flying believe that air travel is safe, but they’re still extremely afraid to do it.
The report notes that around 90% of people with a flight phobia believe they’ll be overwhelmed with fear or anxiety during the flight, with no method of escape.
9. Approximately 21 million Britons have a fear of flying
According to a study by the National Geographic Channel, 21 million Britons currently suffer from a fear of flying.
That’s about 32% of the population, which is a huge number!
But there are a LOT of reasons why people fear flying. Some people have had bad experiences in the air, while others have just never flown before and don’t know what to expect. Some people are scared of heights, while others are concerned with safety or security issues.
Aviophobia Demographic Statistics
10. Most people have their first fear of flying “attack” at the age of 27
(HTH Travel Insurance and Anxieties.com)
According to HTH Travel Insurance, reporting on a psychologist from anxieties.com, the average age people experience an onset of fearful flying is around 27 years. Fearful flyers also report that their anxiety often develops after the birth of a child.
In some cases, other people develop their fear after a bad experience on a previous flight, or as a reaction to negative stories about flying told by other people.
Some people also experience phobias about flying as a result of an increase in general stress. If your general exposure to anxiety increases, you may find you’re more nervous on flights too.
11. Many people develop fears of flying between the age of 17 and 34
A report from the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), found most people experience “panic” during a flight between the ages of 17 and 34.
According to the report, after feeling an unexpected fear when flying, a person is more likely to develop anxiety about feeling that fear and the accompanying symptoms again.
Notably, the ADAA says that panics often emerge during flights as a result of other occurrences, such as a birth or death in the family, or a change in circumstances, like a marriage or divorce. The ADAA notes very few fears will start with a traumatic flight.
12. 33% of the population are “slightly uncomfortable” about flying and women are more likely to be afraid than men.
A report published by YouGov America found some interesting information about the fear of flying in the modern world. According to the report, 33% of people feel slightly uncomfortable flying in a plane, while 16% would consider themselves to be genuinely afraid.
In the report, more women (38%) were likely to be afraid of flying than men (28%), and it was also more common for people over the age of 65 (41%) to express they had a phobia. Around half of Americans said they had absolutely no concerns about flying.
13. 20% of the population experience issues with work and life due to fear of flying
According to an expert report from the ADAA on the fear of flying, anxiety about flying is quite common, but it doesn’t interfere with most people in their day-to-day lives. However, for around 20% of the population, anxiety or phobia can become detrimental.
These people suggest that their fear often interferes with their social lives, and their careers, because they begin to avoid vacations and job promotions as a result of trying to stay away from flights.
14. The majority of fearful flyers hate being out of control
The TPG Lounge posted a poll on its Facebook group about the most common reasons people feel fear of flying, or anxiety about getting on a flight. The top-scoring stressor in the poll was a lack of control when being in the air, and not being able to manage the movement of the aircraft.
The second most common stressor chosen by respondents to the poll was the risk of dying or injury, while the third most common concern was the risk of being exposed to germs on a flight. Notably, the company believes the number of fears surrounding germs on a plane has increased significantly since the rise of the pandemic in 2020.
15. Older people believe it’s safer to fly than drive
According to a study by YouGov America, around 47% of people believe it’s safer to fly to your destination than drive a long distance. This is a fact other statistics throughout the years have backed up. According to some reports, you can be up to 72% times more likely to die when in a car than on a plane. However, 16% of Americans still feel safer driving.
Notably, while people over the age of 65 in this report were more likely to say they were afraid of flying, they were also more likely to say it was safer to fly than drive (56%). Females in the study were less likely to say flying was safer (40%).
Flight Safety Statistics
16. Only 7 airline accidents were fatal in 2021
Opposing the fears many people have about flying in general, the International Air Travel Authority regularly posts documents highlighting the increasing safety of air travel. In the 58th edition of the “Annual Safety Report”, which was published in 2021, only 7 fatal accidents happened in the industry throughout 2021.
Additionally, IATA member airline’s accident rate was only 0.44 per million flights, which was a massive improvement over the 5-year average of 1.23, and the 2020 rate of 1.58. The IATA also reported the number of accidents decreased from 35 in 2020 to only 26 in 2021.
17. Flight accidents have been at their lowest rate in 2021
Safety records for air travel have never been better!
Though the IATA annual flight safety summary found a slight increase in the number of fatal accidents between 2020 and 2021 (from 5 to 7), they also found the all-accident rate was 1.01 accidents for every million flights, which was a significant improvement over the 5-year average rate of around 1.23 per million flights.
What’s more, Airlines within the IATA registry reported zero fatal accidents in 2021. The fatality risk rate reported by the IATA (0.23) means a person would, on average, need to take to flight every day for 10,078 years to be involved in an accident with at least one fatality. The same person would need to be on a flight every day for 12,151 years to face a 100% chance of a fatal accident.
18. The number of crashes fell by more than 50% in 2020
A study conducted by Aviation firm To70 found there were 40 issues with passenger (commercial) planes during 2020, five of these resulted in fatal outcomes. In 2019 on the other hand, there were 86 accidents in total, 8 of which had fatalities.
Per million flights in 2020, large commercial airplanes had an average of 0.27 fatal accidents per million flights. The reporters note that the number of aviation deaths and accidents, in general, has been falling dramatically over the last two decades.
In 2005, there were around 1,015 fatalities worldwide on commercial flights, highlighting a massive change in the safety of these aviation vehicles.
19. The odds of your plane crashing are one in 1.2 million
Traveling by air is one of the safest ways to get from point A to point B. The odds of your plane crashing are extremely slim.
It’s a pretty safe bet that the plane you’re on won’t crash. In fact, according to a study by Harvard University, the chances of your plane crashing are one in 1.2 million—and even then, the odds of dying are one in 11 million.
That may seem like a lot of numbers to wrap your head around, but it’s actually pretty simple—the odds are really good that you’ll make it through your next flight without incident.
In case you were wondering, your chances of dying in a car accident are one in 5,000. So while flying still has its risks—and they’re not insignificant—it’s actually pretty safe!
Fear of Flying Treatment Statistics
20. 93% of VRE and SE Therapy patients start flying after treatment
A report on the use of virtual reality exposure therapy and standard exposure therapy for the treatment of flying phobias found the use of exposure therapy can be significantly beneficial to patients. After treatment of 8 sessions over 6 weeks, and 4 sessions of anxiety management, the report found that 93% of people who experience virtual reality exposure got on a plane.
Additionally, another 93% of the patients in the Standard Exposure treatment group had already gotten on a plane within 6 months of the treatment.
21. The most common treatment for fear of flying is cognitive behavioral therapy
(Frontiers in Psychology)
A report published by the Frontiers in Psychology Journal found several pharmacological treatments exist for fear of flying, including the use of anti-anxiety medications. However, according to this report, the majority of treatments used are psychological interventions.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves focusing on the creation of positive associations with flying to replace negative feelings was identified as the most common treatment by the report.
However, the researchers also noted an increasing number of therapists offering exposure therapy, where the person can be exposed to the source of their fear.
Virtual reality tools have allowed for increased access to potential exposure therapy options.
This is the end of our journey, but we hope it’s just the start of yours. We know that flying is scary, but we also know that it can be a lot less scary if you know what to expect.
Take a moment to breathe and reflect on how much you learned through these fear of flying statistics. And then get back out there! We can’t wait to see what you do next!
Thanks for reading!