How to Handle Airplane Turbulence
Turbulence makes most people nervous, but it rarely leads to injury, especially if you wear your seatbelt whenever you’re in your seat. This article will provide some tips for getting through the bumpy ride as calmly as possible.
Method 1 of 2: Before the Flight
1Download the free app at  which has a built-in g-force meter. It measures the force of turbulence and scientifically assures you that the plane is well within its capabilities.
Ask for a seat that you are comfortable with. Ask for a window seat if having a wall next to you will make you feel more secure. Keep in mind, however, that no one seat is safer than the others. The only seats you want to avoid are the emergency row seats, because if you are panicking, you may not be able to handle the responsibility that comes with sitting in that row. Sitting close to aircraft center of mass (close to the wing) may be more comfortable, as the aircraft pitches and yaws around this point. See How to Get a Good Seat on an Airplane.
Go to the bathroom before the flight takes off. Being in the bathroom when turbulence hits is quite dangerous, so go beforehand so that you decrease your chances of being stuck in the bathroom during turbulence. Try to avoid drinking diuretics like coffee and tea. If you are stuck in the toilets when turbulence strikes, use the provided handles to brace yourself.
Learn about the causes of turbulence. Understanding why something happens often makes it less frightening. Try searching for ‘turbulence anxiety’ on YouTube.
Method 2 of 2: During the Flight
1Always keep your seatbelt on when you’re seated.
- Listen to the pilot and flight attendants. If they tell you to return to your seat and fasten your seatbelt, whether through an announcement or by turning on the seatbelt light, listen to them immediately. This may sound like obvious advice, but many injuries caused by turbulence were the result of the passenger not listening to instructions, such as a woman who went to the bathroom while the seatbelt light was on and suffered a paralysis injury when the plane hit turbulence
- Put your seatbelt on even when not instructed to wear it. While pilots can usually anticipate turbulence, sometimes it’s sudden, and sometimes it’s severe. For example, 26 people were injured when a flight from Brazil to the US hit unexpected turbulence, but none of the people wearing seatbelts were hurt. It can be tempting to take off your seatbelt, especially on long flights when you want to be more comfortable. Consider just slightly loosening your seatbelt instead. No matter what, you want the seatbelt to keep you in your seat should severe turbulence strike suddenly.
- The safest place for a child to be during turbulence is in their own seat, with an FAA-approved safety seat or harness restraint; sometimes the airline will provide it (ask beforehand) or you may need to bring your own.
Set aside and tuck away any loose items. Injuries can result from objects being thrown around during turbulence. You might also want to dump any hot liquids into the motion sickness bag to prevent burns should it spill or splash during turbulence. Put your tray up so you don’t bump into it.
Use relaxation techniques.
Keep fully hydrated. Transport aircraft air conditioning systems are known to be very dry, causing the potential for easy dehydration which can result in headaches or nausea due to A/C systems alone.
Maintain good breathing techniques.
- Control your breathing. When you start to panic, you might hasten your breathing, or hold your breath, both of which will make you more anxious. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths.
- Loosen your grip on the arm rests. Let your body go limp. Tension will only make things worse.
- If you are panicked or scared, watch the Flight Attendant. If they are calm and relaxed, it is good indicator that everything is OK.
- Use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
- Meditate – Try to Ground and Center
- Perform Self Hypnosis
- Close your eyes and listen to music. Pay close attention to the lyrics. Try to create a music video in your head for whatever song you’re listening to.
- Read a book.
- If you’re traveling with someone, play hand games like Rocks, Paper, Scissors or Chopsticks
- Count to 99 on Your Fingers
- In flight magazines often include sudoku, crosswords and other puzzles that can help distract from turbulence. You can often borrow a pen from a flight attendant, especially if you explain it’s to help distract from flying anxiety.
- Remember, airplanes are frequently inspected for safety. As time passes, ordinary flight and (especially) turbulence take their toll, and eventually maintenance is required to repair the wear and tear on the airframe. Because this is normally an extremely slow process, it’s generally easy to spot wear and tear that requires attention long before it becomes a hazard in flight.
- Think of airplane turbulence as driving a vehicle on a bumpy road.