Fasten your seat belts, as Belfast City Airport offers help to nervous travellers
Anxious air passengers in Belfast will soon be able to face their flying fears, with the launch of meditation classes at the City Airport.
The 'mindfulness' classes aim to reduce flight stress with simple meditation exercises before and after take-off and have been called a world first for airports.
George Best Belfast City Airport and Niamh (The Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health) have teamed up for the classes which begin on Monday, August 15.
"We all know that travelling can be stressful at times," said Brian Ambrose, chief executive of Belfast City Airport.
"We're always aiming to find alternative ways to make the passenger experience as relaxing and enjoyable and these short Niamh mindfulness sessions are the perfect way for passengers to relax and unwind for 15 minutes before taking off or after landing."
He continued: "We believe it's the first time such sessions have been held in an airport and hope it will not only reduce stress levels of those travelling to and from the airport, but also allow time for staff and other airport users to take time out and reflect upon their own mental health."
Peter McBride, group chief executive of Niamh - Northern Ireland's largest independent mental health charity - said: "We are absolutely delighted to be the new charity partner of Belfast City Airport. As part of the link-up, we are trying to find bright, innovative ways to make people more aware of their mental health and believe the mindfulness classes at the airport will do just that."
He said that one in five people in here suffers from mental health problems, costing the local economy £3.5bn a year.
"In the UK, mental illness now accounts for a bigger share of the overall burden of disease than any other health condition, including heart disease and cancer," he said.
"The partnership with Belfast City Airport will allow people to engage with these issues and hopefully inspire each other as we try to build a society that has a strong mental well-being."
Brian Ambrose added: "Around 2.7 million passengers come through Belfast City Airport each year and if through this relationship we can help just one person, then the partnership will have been worth it."
Jim McFarland, a pilot from Ballyclare, said he often reassured passengers with a flight phobia. "I've been flying commercial airlines for many years," he said.
"Usually when we have a nervous passenger we're told before they board the plane. So on the ground, before the doors close, we invite them into the flight deck for a wee chat and to answer any questions or concerns they have.
"Everyone has different concerns. Some think the plane will blow up, some are afraid of turbulence and some think the plane will just fall out of the sky.
"That's why we try to get the nervous person to ask any questions. It's funny that people drive cars and hit bumps and rough roads all the time and don't even blink. Yet a plane journey fills them with terror.
"I like to reassure nervous passengers that they are in safe hands. Flying remains one of the safest ways to travel."
If you suffer from a fear of flying or need help with mental health issues, free advice is available at www.niamhwellbeing.org