Passengers look for various distractions to help take their mind off the flight. Larry Ventis, a professor of psychology at William and Mary, has done research on ways to alleviate fear using humor.
"Southwest flight attendants do often use humor during instructions," Ventis says, "but more could be done in this regard, pairing humor with flight-related content and imagery to establish a more comfortable perspective on flying."
Ventis points out that when anything does go wrong, passenger fears are heightened.
"The single biggest problem which fosters excessive fear of flying is the fact that anytime there is a crash of a commercial airliner it gets nationally and often internationally publicized," Ventis says. "Whereas the hundreds of thousands of safe flights every day get no publicity whatsoever."