People develop tactics such as routines and rituals to give themselves the illusion of control

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Tags: experience, psychology

Many passengers develop pre- or during-flight routines, ranging from fairly conventional to truly idiosyncratic. These routines may be practical, such as having a pre-planned list of items to pack. Others may be less so, such as elaborate multi-step rituals that help distract passengers from their anxieties surrounding flying [1].

“Clean everything you touch. Anything that you put your hands on, you have to wipe. This is what I do on every plane I get on. I do not care what people think of me. It's my health, and it makes me feel better." [2]

“I don’t know how he does it, but my friend always convinces the flight attendants to let him keep his tray table open during take-off. Then he puts a framed painting of Virgin Mary on a tiny stand, opens a Bible to some marked passage, says a little prayer, and then downs Xanax pills with two champagnes.”

“I look for the first people I can spot on the ground as we land - it’s like a little mental game.” 

“I always buy three magazines in the airport in preparation - usually Automobile, Dwell, Yachting, and maybe Auto Trend. They always some sort of lifestyle component to them - like fancy cars, fancy houses, and yachts, and they make me forget that I’m flying. The photos make it easy to escape the present reality.” 

“Flying is weird for me. I always try to sit near the front, so that I can’t see the vastness of the plane. I kind of freak out when I realize how many people are on it. I usually hyperventilate at some point during the flight - kind of to myself, so no one else notices.”

“Always step onto the plane with the right foot for luck - everybody knows that!” 

“When I was young, I used to recite a Shakespeare sonnet in my mind during take off. It’s like a race. Once the plane starts moving, I start and then try to race to finish it before the plane leaves the ground. It’s like a way of measuring the amount of time it takes for the plane to take off.”

“I have a pretty extensive Excel sheet with a packing list, organized by seasons. I have it down to a science now. I don’t really have to think about it - just open the spreadsheet and go.”
  1. Anonymous (multiple). interview by Song, H., Boston, July 22, 2019.
  2. Rosen, Samantha. “Naomi Campbell's Preflight Routine Is Totally Insane.” The Points Guy. The Points Guy, July 24, 2019.