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Deeply Afraid of Flying, Red-Eyes, Must Take 16 Hour Red-Eye Flight During Pandemic

Deeply Afraid of Flying, Red-Eyes, Must Take 16 Hour Red-Eye Flight During Pandemic

Old May 27, 20, 12:35 am
  #1  
formerly treepuppy
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Unhappy Deeply Afraid of Flying, Red-Eyes, Must Take 16 Hour Red-Eye Flight During Pandemic

I posted about a month ago. I have since extended my visa for Singapore by 1 month, but I don't think any further extensions will be be possible. Now I would like to post again to share a bit about my situation and ask how a nervous and scared flier can sleep on a 16 hour flight.

I have found a lot of articles and discussions about sleeping on an airplane and I have also found a lot of articles and discussions on fear of flying, but I have not found any advice to read about sleeping on an airplane *for when* you have a terrible fear of flying.

Due to my situation of being in Singapore during a pandemic and having to travel back to the United States in mid-June, there is only one flight option that works during this time due to most other flights being cancelled. It is a flight route and schedule that I would have never considered in pre- pandemic times. It is a 16 hour non stop flight from Singapore to California.
The flight has virtually every thing that makes me scared about flying.

1) It is a red eye flight which I have always avoided booking in my life since I have multiple sleep disorders, with the worst being "nocturnal panic attacks."

2) The flight goes directly over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and perhaps there may be a lot of turbulence. I get scared easily when a flight does not go over and does not stay close to land and looking at FlightAware and FlightRadar this route goes directly over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, not near any land.

3) The flight is also entirely at night, so it will be dark the entire time flying over the ocean for 16 hours. This scares me greatly.

4) During the pandemic there are many less planes in the air so I worry there will be less planes to communicate with the captain of my flight about turbulence ahead.

5) Finally, it's not a small aircraft type but it is smaller than planes I have taken the past for longer flights. I know it's partially psychological, but I have been fortunate and always felt safer on larger aircraft with four engines, for example. This is a medium wide body aircraft with two engines. It's an Airbnb A350-900, whereas in the past I managed to do longer flights (9 - 12 hours) on bigger aircraft such as 380-800s, 747s, and 777-300ERs. So there's less peace of mind with that too. I would actually have significantly less worries if the flight were operated by a A380-800 or 747 because that's how I've always felt.

I need help to prepare to sleep on this thing and try to not have a nervous breakdown. In the past, I have had extremely scary panic attacks on planes (even just on a 3 hour flight last year) and in the far past I have purposely missed flights that I to afraid to take. Taking drugs is also not an option I'm not going to start taking drugs with potential side effects right before my flight in a couple weeks and also it's not an option in Singapore anyways. Sometimes I have panic attacks from strong meditation too. I'm looking to do this all naturally with hopefully some support, encouragement, and reassurance, and more advice on how to sleep.

I'm in economy class on the plane, but my presumption is that the flight will be empty enough perhaps to have a row to myself to lay down, although I can't be certain the flight will be that empty, and checking the seat chart now is no guarantee that the flight will remain as empty as it is now. I definitely feel I could try to sleep if I'm just able to lay down entirely although it will still be hard, and I anticipate either being too stressed to sleep or waking up every 20 minutes, but maybe there's a chance I can sleep a few hours without waking up if turbulence isn't too bad.

Oh and then you add the coronavirus fears as well and how should I proteced myself while trying to sleep? I guess I should keep the surgical masks on all night and wear goggles or an eye mask? I'm not sure what else I can do for a 16 hour flight?

I also worry what the health checks and immigration in the U.S will be like during this time. Does anyone have any recent experiences? That's just an added stress too after an extremely challenging and exhausting and extremely long flight.

On top of those stressors, I plan to have a layover in California for two nights to rest from the long trip, and after that I will take another 3 hour domestic flight on a small plane to get to the city I'm trying to get too. There's also the jetlag and 15 hour time difference, which in the past between Asia and west coast U.S has taken at least a week, and usually two weeks for my body to adjust. There's also all the stress about what's happening in the U.S with the political turmoil and the epidemic.

There is so much incredible stress for this trip for someone who has been overseas for the past few years, and who has suffered from aviophobia, PTSD, and panic attacks for several years. When I reached out to the U.S Embassy about my situation, they described the flights as "easy" which is non-sense to hear for someone who has had fear of flying and panic attacks for years. In my mind, I want to tell myself over and over it will be possible to make it through, but I am also constantly worrying about it non-stop enough to write this post and share it on the Internet to strangers to seek more advice. I have a therapist that I work with (virtually now) for anxiety and trauma, and of course, I have brought up the fear of flying in sessions, but I just think the more help and feedback I can get hopefully the better.

Originally I wanted to do a stopover anywhere because the flight routes would be closer to land and it would give me a chance to get off the plane mid-way in either Japan or Taiwan. But all flights to Japan except for one that doesn't work schedule-wise, have been canceled. Taiwan and Hong Kong and other countries are not options because they are not allowing transit passengers during this crazy time, and that will be the case indefinitely. So even though I have flown between N. America and Asia over the years because my partner and kids are in Asia, regardless of my fear of flying, however, this time the circumstances are really extremely different than in the past. In the past, I would always, always take shorter flights and more stopovers to get to my destination. This is the first time where I'm forced to take such an extremely long red-eye flight. California is even the wrong state. I'm trying to get to Seattle, but there are no other flight options that make sense due to all the flight cancellations since March. So the only option that seems to make sense is the flight to California. Any flights from Singapore will be long, but in normal times, I have always stopped in Japan or Taiwan in between (usually for a week or longer). This will be the first time I have ever gone direct.

Thank you for any advice or help on this situation and trying to make things easier in a tricky situation.
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Old May 27, 20, 12:45 am
  #2  
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Well, I feel sorry for your situation, but I don't. think there's anything anyone here can tell you that wasn't already brought up in the other thread.

1. You need to leave Singapore within a month.
2. There is only one way to get to the US, pretty much the only place you can go.
3. This flight has a number of issues which heighten your already tense feelings about air travel.

Those are the facts and we can't change that, so you have to find a way to cope with them. Since you (understandably) do not want to take medication, have you considered seeing a therapist in Singapore who can perhaps relieve your anxiety?

I know it won't help you, but the A350 is an incredible aircraft and, to paraphrase what I said in your other thread, it doesn't know that it's nighttime, or that it is over water.
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Old May 27, 20, 12:52 am
  #3  
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Originally Posted by FlyingSloth View Post
<snip>
5) Finally, it's not a small aircraft type but it is smaller than planes I have taken the past for longer flights. I know it's partially psychological, but I have been fortunate and always felt safer on larger aircraft with four engines, for example. This is a medium wide body aircraft with two engines. It's an Airbnb A350-900, whereas in the past I managed to do longer flights (9 - 12 hours) on bigger aircraft such as 380-800s, 747s, and 777-300ERs. So there's less peace of mind with that too. I would actually have significantly less worries if the flight were operated by a A380-800 or 747 because that's how I've always felt.
<snip>
Wing span
A350 900 64.75 m / 212.43 ft
B777-300 ER 199 ft 11 in / 60.93 m
Wing Area
A350 900 442 m2 (4,760 sq ft)[
B777-300 ER 4,605 sq ft (427.8 m2)
Length
A350 900 66.8 m / 219.2 ft
B777-300 ER 242 ft 4 in / 73.86 m
Weight MTOW
A350 900 280 t / 617,295 lb
B777-300 ER 660,000 lb / 299,370 kg

Not a lot of difference between these 2 aircraft.
And get used to them as many A380's & B747 will not fly again. Some A380 may get back in the air in a few years, if not turned into aluminium beer cans
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbus_A350_XWB
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_777
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_747
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbus_A380
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Old May 27, 20, 12:55 am
  #4  
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The German government ordered three A350-900s to replace the two A340-300s that were getting on with maintenance issues. The first is about to be delivered. If it's good enough as the VIP transport of the German government, it's good enough for anyone else.
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Old May 27, 20, 2:47 am
  #5  
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Have you ever asked ICA if you can extend the stay for 1 more time?
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Old May 27, 20, 2:47 am
  #6  
 
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Originally Posted by FlyingSloth View Post
Due to my situation of being in Singapore during a pandemic and having to travel back to the United States in mid-June, there is only one flight option that works during this time due to most other flights being cancelled. It is a flight route and schedule that I would have never considered in pre- pandemic times. It is a 16 hour non stop flight from Singapore to California.
So, SQ38. Departs SIN at 19:40, arrives LAX at 20:35. Flight time of 15:55.

5) Finally, it's not a small aircraft type but it is smaller than planes I have taken the past for longer flights. I know it's partially psychological, but I have been fortunate and always felt safer on larger aircraft with four engines, for example. This is a medium wide body aircraft with two engines. It's an Airbnb A350-900, whereas in the past I managed to do longer flights (9 - 12 hours) on bigger aircraft such as 380-800s, 747s, and 777-300ERs.
I've flown six legs of a similar routing. My flights were on an Airbus A340-500*. That's about the same size as the A350-900, except the A340 fuselage is narrower. I've never been on an A350, but I suspect it will feel like a big aircraft to you, just slightly narrower (0.2m) than the 777's you've been on.

* Actually, one eastbound leg was on an A340-600. I better not say why that's interesting.

2) The flight goes directly over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and perhaps there may be a lot of turbulence. I get scared easily when a flight does not go over and does not stay close to land and looking at FlightAware and FlightRadar this route goes directly over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, not near any land.
The routings shown on those sites may be "artists interpretations." If the flight follows the Great Circle Route, then it will fly over the Philippines, offshore from Japan, offshore from Russia, offshore from Alaska, offshore from Canada, and offshore from the USA west coast, never being far from land. The routing of an individual flight though may vary due to weather conditions. However, for an eastbound flight, the airline likely wants to make use of the jet stream found at northern latitudes - going across the middle of the Pacific won't catch those winds.

I suggest you book a seat on the left side of the aircraft. There's a chance you might see land in that direction. On one of the eastbound flights, an hour before landing, I could actually see my neighborhood in Northern California.

My westbound flights also followed the Great Circle Route. When I was in a seat on the right side of the aircraft, I could see the lights of Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

3) The flight is also entirely at night, so it will be dark the entire time flying over the ocean for 16 hours. This scares me greatly.
Good news! The flight is actually mostly during daytime! Remember, the airplane will be going one way, and the sun the other way. From your perspective you'll experience a sunrise and a sunset during the flight. Actually, given the summer travel date, the airplane will land at dusk.

There's a chance the cabin crew will make everyone close their window shades. (Grrr!) I suggest you book a window seat and bring aboard a thick blanket and some tape. Explain to the crew that you are afraid of the dark. Then tape the blanket around the window and drape it over your head. This way you get natural sunlight while not bothering other sleeping passengers.

On one of my eastbound flights, I had access to a lavatory with a ... window! When I got sick of hours of the dark cabin, I could duck into the lavatory and soak up some bright sunshine for a few minutes.

--

Here's how I dealt with jet lag on my eastbound flights (my departure/arrival times were very similar to yours):

On two flights, I made sure to have been up early on the departure day, and took no naps during the day. After departure, we were served dinner. After that, I promptly took a nap. That meant I slept during the time the aircraft flew in the dark. I woke up around "sunrise". Even though the blinds were closed, I could tell it was light outside. I made sure to blast myself with light from the IFE and overhead lights. This told my body that it is daytime. I then stayed awake until landing. After arrival, I checked into an airport area hotel for the night. Voila - no jet lag at all! I took a midday feeder flight home.

On one flight I stayed on the departure time zone. I slept as long as I could during from the start of the flight. Then, upon landing, I roamed LAX's TBIT all night waiting for a 6AM flight home. I dealt with the time zone changes at home.

--

And oh, be careful booking your hotel and further flight. You'll be crossing the dateline. But the flight takes the better part of a day. This makes it confusing as to the arrival date!
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Old May 27, 20, 3:30 am
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Would suggest making a time boxed plan which you can control such as
1. Bring things to do/watch/listen to to keep distracted and power bank + spare cables. Charge everything before going to the airport.
2. Find a "virtually soothing space". If I can't sleep, I tend to listen to some specific white noise tracks or music which helps me relax and which I've heard before. Then I close my eyes and if I doze off or it gets to that weird in-between sleep state, no big deal. If I stay awake then that's fine, too, especially if I have time to get a bit of rest afterwards. Even "resting your eyes" should help your body get a bit of rejuvenation. Since you have sleep disorders, I'm sure you've had some nights where you could not rest very well but still made it through the next day. Sure, it'd be nice to sleep on a flight but it's kind of a stretch goal for most on a 16 hour flight in economy. Plenty of other people will also be awake, even without flying anxiety, because a plane isn't the easiest place to sleep and 16 hours is a long time for some people to stay seated. I also like noise cancelling headphones to help cancel out some engine noise. Maybe your sounds are ASMR, old sitcom you've watched a lot and fallen asleep to, lulling audiobook.
3. Make your "comfort in flight" packing list, even go ahead and pack it several days before. If small food bribes make you happy, pack your favorite snacks. Bring layers of clothing, snacks, wipes, sanitizer, masks, etc. I pack oxygen activating heat packs and a travel blanket because I can't sleep when I am cold and get cold easily.
4. Read the safety card thoroughly and locate the exits after boarding.

So now you have a plan which works with your own coping mechanisms. Perhaps you've worked on it with the therapist. Now try to stop dwelling and freaking yourself out. Try to stay busy offline and away from YouTube/Netflix flight related content. Unless you work with negativity and fatalism, watching such things with negative flight incidents is not going to help your stress levels.
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Old May 27, 20, 3:57 am
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You may wish to play with this:

SunFlight.net - Day and Night Flight Map
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Old May 27, 20, 4:19 am
  #9  
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Realistically, no-one here is likely to be able to solve your underlying fear of flying. It's very real for a lot of people, and I do sympathise with the dilemma you're wrestling with. All we can do is give you facts and hope you can process them sufficiently to give you some assurance.

So ...

Please rest assured that the A350 is an extremely safe aircraft, and in terms of sleeping it's as good as anything in the skies right now because of the cabin pressure and lighting. It's as close to a natural environment as you're going to get in the air - certainly way ahead of two of your preferred aircraft of 747 or 777. It's also a widebody, so with modern aircraft design you'll feel that's there's a great deal of space around you.

You'll be travelling on a major airline with a very competent regulatory body. There isn't going to be any skimping on maintenance to reduce costs.

It seems you feel more comfortable with four engines because you think the risk of all of them failing is less. That's understandable, but two engine aircraft have been flying over stretches of water for many years without any issue. They have to be rated to do that, and the airline will have a mapped out diversion plan which covers every eventuality including medical emergency and aircraft defect. Even if something goes wrong with one engine the plane will happily keep flying on its remaining engine to reach the diversion airport.

The fact is that the most dangerous phases of flight are take-off and landing - so actually in terms of risk you're far better off taking a direct flight rather than a series of shorter ones. The number of instances of planes failing when at cruising altitude is infinitesimally small, and even for those that do they enact the diversion plan. All pilots are well versed and extremely skilled at getting planes safety on the ground even when they develop a fault, and they practice every scenario you could ever think of in simulators. One of the hard things is accepting that you're not in control and are relying on others to get you to your destination, but ask yourself - would you rather be in charge of the plane yourself, or have someone with massive training and a large number of flight hours/experience piloting it!?

I suspect the reality is that you'll sleep for much longer periods than you believe and hopefully there are enough distractions during the journey with meal services and movies on the IFE that your mind can be distracted by what's happening outside.

Finally, talk to the aircrew when you get on and let them know you're a nervous flyer. They really are well-versed in looking after people who do suffer from this fear and will be able to put your mind at rest. Planes can make strange noises (or indeed, in the case of modern planes because of the soundproofing, no noise at all, which can be more disconcerting) and they will be able to give you an explanation that maybe what you think is abnormal is really perfectly fine.
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Old May 27, 20, 5:15 am
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Sedate yourself before the flight. Do a dry run at home first.
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Old May 27, 20, 5:25 am
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[Mod edit]

First, calm down..it will be fine! Pull yourself together! Think positiv that everything you positively want will come true.
It is important to have a clear head and a positive attitude while you plan your trip. Try not to think what everything can go wrong but what can happen right!.
Boost your confidence and tell yourself, you will achieve what you have planned!

If that does not help take some tabletts to help you sleep easily and relax your tensions, before you know you are already descending to Frisco! Have a safe journey!

Last edited by NewbieRunner; May 27, 20 at 3:39 pm Reason: Redacted unhelpful comment
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Old May 27, 20, 6:12 am
  #12  
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I guess you could watch to see if anything from HK does become available...:

https://onemileatatime.com/hong-kong...it-passengers/

Re-opening June 1 but not sure what the flight schedule looks like.
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Old May 27, 20, 6:20 am
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You have a few weeks to work with. Find a licensed therapist and have him or her help you work through your fears. I can tell you that therapy helped me immeasurably. Best of luck to you.
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Old May 27, 20, 6:28 am
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Looking very quickly online, i can see two alternatives to this SQ flight, SIN-ICN-SEA on Korean and Delta, both flights on widebodies, or SIN-ZRH-ORD-SEA, with long stopovers that allow you to relax, even get some sleep in Chicago before continuing to Seattle. From 15th June, the Swiss flights run daily.

Hope this helps.
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Old May 27, 20, 7:04 am
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Two suggestions:
1) Find a therapist in Singapore who can do hypnosis with you for fear of flying. Hypnosis is very effective for fears and phobias.

2) Take a high quality sleeping pill on the plane. Do a test run in your home a few times before so you feel comfortable.

Good luck!
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