Nellie Bly on Fear of Flying


Nellie Bly, a noted traveller of the world, was an early pioneer for women’s travel.  Thanks to a warp in the time space continuum and the miracle of the internet, she is our advice columnist.



Dear Nellie:

I love to travel but am terrified to fly and am tired of long transatlantic voyages, river barges, and such. Please advise.

Yours Truly,




Dear Gillian:

I find myself shocked and grieved at your dilemma and am glad to advise you on your problem since one cannot count on transatlantic voyages for the elegancies of life any more. Quite recently, I was aboard a liner where the sheets where not daily aired or ironed! And let us not dwell on river barges! We must get you over this dreadful impediment so that you may speedily and enjoyably traverse the skies. To begin with, your fear is entirely justified by the various perils and indignities of modern airline travel. However, once you have identified what you must fear and know that you are adequately prepared your fears will dissolve. What must one do to prepare? I provide my own list, which you must follow precisely:

  • You, being a sensible woman, no doubt fear the airlines first and foremost. What if they don’t let you on board, just for the first likely peril? Most airlines overbook, and you, as an airline passenger have no rights. Be prepared to either negotiate vouchers for another trip and free hotel night and meals or be fore-armed with a steely gaze and the following statement which you must memorize: “I will be seated on this flight or I will loudly make an enormous scene until I am removed, at which point I will call my attorney, Jason Horwath, who has made a tidy living suing airlines such as yours.” Most assuredly, you will be seated, it always works for me. However, if airport security arrives, go limp and wail very loudly until your fellow passengers become an unruly mob and save you. Why would they do so? See the next point.
  • Airline food – don’t buy their inedible and expensive boxes! Buy three expensive lunches at the airport and sell the extras to your seatmates at enough profit to cover your own meal expense while gathering good will. Need I mention that you should advise your seatmates of your plans the instant you are seated in case you need rescue or support (see above and point below).
  • The second great peril of airline travel is that occasionally, terrorism rears its ugly head. You need not be afraid if you have advance notice and can spring into action to defend yourself, fellow passengers and crew. How, you may ask, can the gentle traveler manage such a feat against a determined terrorist? Knitting needles are still allowed on all domestic and international fights, and so armed, I do assure you, no terrorist stands a chance against you, although having devoted seatmates are assets.
  • Motion sickness – a vile affliction easily remedied by commercial preparations such as Dramamine and a shot of strong drink followed by coffee, which you of course will have procured prior to boarding with your lunch. I think you will find a shot of brandy with coffee an excellent stimulant to off-set the sleepiness brought on by anti-motion sickness remedies as well as fortifying you for any necessary hand to hand combat with terrorists (see above).
  • Dull or annoying seatmates – don’t be afraid! Such can easily be fended off by an earnest and enthusiastic description of your volunteer work with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. No doubt you think that might be awkward when you later partake of strong stimulant but not when you mutter softly about backsliding. Trust me; they will swiftly bury themselves in the on-flight magazine. This is also an effective defense against any terrorist that may be sitting next to you if they have not been disarmed by your offering of food.
  • Tedious In-flight Entertainment – bring a book, which is also a wonderful emergency backup system should you forget your knitting and need to deal with terrorists or if a seatmate persists in talking to you since you can offer to share the contents of the book.
  • The third peril, of course, is mechanical or pilot issues that might cause the plane to crash. We recommend a nice, homemade silk parachute for those rare occasions where escape is necessary.  Look at it as an unexpected opportunity to drop into a new country.  However, a parachute is not always enough and so I suspect you will ask what to do then?  Well, best to reflect on the contrast of going out in a spectacular fashion while travelling internationally compared to expiring in an Elderly Persons Home forced to eat bland food, endure condescension from the staff and endure recreational options such as bingo.  Would we not prefer to go out gallantly doing something exciting?  The answer is clear so in that dire eventuality, one does not worry or fuss but rather seeks a good view for the final exciting moments of an interesting life, well-lived.

Yours in flying,

Nellie Bly

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