Luxury travel consultant and road warrior JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers has a secret: She’s afraid of flying.
The fact that she shared this with the New York Times yesterday is besides the point (in fact, maybe it means she’s on the road to recovery!). She has fear each time she’s in the air, whether on long-haul flights to Thailand or shorter hops to Dallas.
“Over the years, I have gotten better, but I’m not ashamed to turn to someone like a seatmate or flight attendant for reassurance if I need it,” she told the New York Times. “Hearing a voice of calm and reason really soothes my fears.”
Kurtz-Ahlers isn’t your ordinary business traveler. She’s a former Ritz-Carlton executive who used to oversee business development around the globe including at properties in Dubai, Spain, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey.
That sounds painful to me.
It also hits close to home. I, like Kurtz-Ahlers, spent the better part of the last 10 years disliking flying and trembling during turbulence. Possibly my worst fear-of-flying moment was one summer many years ago when I was flying into Atlanta on a small jet to cover a key meeting for then-bankrupt US Airways. Most of the C-suite executives were on board, and I was sitting across the aisle from one of them. The flight was bumpy, but then we flew into a giant, puffy, summer cloud, the plane took a big drop.
I must have had quite a look of fear on my face as I reached out to embrace the person next to me – who happened to be one of those C-suite execs. Awkward!
I’ve openly talked about my fear of flying for years and, happily, it recently vanished. I’m especially glad because I don’t want our kids to know that fear.
Kurtz-Ahlers must be on the path to carefree flying, too, from the sound of it.
“I suppose you could say I work at liking it,” she told the New York Times. “I’m a fearful flier, which is kind of ironic considering how much I fly. Usually I sit in business or first class, and those passengers are pretty blasé about flying, even during horrible turbulence. Not me. I figured I was getting better when, on a recent flight, I sat next to a hotel owner who made me feel like a real road warrior. He was terrified of flying, and I wound up reassuring him that all would be O.K.”
Readers: Do you know or have you in the past had a fear of flying? If not, how do you handle people who you notice have that look of dread, or perhaps grip their seat arms a bit too much during bumps?