Almost 50% of Gen Z Express Fear of Flying in the Wake of Boeing’s Safety Concerns

Recent studies have shown that Gen Z, individuals born from 1997 to 2012, have a significantly high fear of flying, likely influenced by recent Boeing 737 safety issues. 

Why Are Younger Generations Afraid to Fly?

A survey by JW Surety Bonds, which included 1,000 Americans and 230 Gen Z respondents, discovered that nearly half of the younger generation is hesitant to travel by air, with 49% expressing a fear of flying. 

According to Merritt Ryan from JW Surety Bonds, this generation experiences a greater anxiety about flying compared to older generations.

Trust Issues During COVID-19

Lesley Koeppel, a therapist based in New York City, notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased anxiety levels among Gen Z. This increase in anxiety stems from a diminished trust in both close relationships and societal structures during an essential period of their development. 

Parental Anxiety’s Impact

Koeppel explains that while growing up, people typically trust their parents, but for Gen Z, the arrival of COVID-19 and the resulting inconsistencies raised doubts about the reliability of societal institutions.

The Transmission of Anxiety

Koeppel pointed out that during the pandemic, parents, who were also dealing with their own fears, inadvertently transferred their anxieties to their children. 

False Information Fuels Gen Z’s Anxieties

Compounded by the confusion from external sources that flipped between directives like wearing masks, getting vaccinated, or safely handling deliveries, Gen Z faced a barrage of inconsistent information. 

Skepticism Towards Authorities

Koeppel emphasized the severity of misinformation and its role in undermining Gen Z’s confidence at a time when they were expected to become more independent and trust in these external authorities. 

This erosion of trust, she believes, cultivates anxiety and significantly impacts their ability to trust and move forward confidently.

Flight Safety Concerns

Koeppel observes that many in Gen Z are now grappling with deep-seated trust issues, manifesting as a reluctance to believe communications from entities like Boeing, airlines, and the Federal Aviation Authority. 

Alaska Airlines Emergency Landing

This skepticism has been compounded by incidents such as a cabin panel detachment on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 flight, necessitating an emergency landing, which is currently under investigation. 

Emergency in the Air

During its journey to Ontario, California, Alaska Air Flight 1282 experienced a significant malfunction, resulting in a large hole in its fuselage and necessitating an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.

The Incident’s Impact and Responses

The aircraft was at an altitude of 16,000 feet when the cabin depressurized due to the incident. The missing door was later reported to have fallen over the Cedar Hills area in Portland, as confirmed by NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy, who appealed to the local residents to report if they find the piece.

The Aftermath of a Mid-Air Emergency

Despite the ordeal, the plane managed to land safely, carrying 174 passengers and six crew members without anyone seated directly next to the damaged panel. 

However, there were reports of a young boy receiving minor injuries due to the decompression, with his shirt being torn off, along with several other passengers sustaining injuries.

Pandemic Lockdowns and Home Safety

Along with the incident, the pandemic’s lockdowns provided Gen Z with a reason to stay within the perceived safety of their homes, avoiding external risks. This avoidance has heightened their fear of confronting anxieties. 

Can Exposure Therapy Help?

Koeppel highlights the importance of exposure therapy in managing anxiety, noting that the lack of travel during the pandemic’s peak deprived many of the opportunity to face and overcome their fears.

Flying Fears Aren’t Just for Gen Z

Concerns about flying in the wake of the FAA’s investigation into Boeing extend beyond Gen Z. According to a survey by JW Surety Bonds, 40% of Baby Boomers and 39% of Millennials also express apprehension about air travel. 

A Generational Divide in Flying Anxiety

Interestingly, Gen X appears to be the least anxious by Boeing’s issues, with only 38% indicating fear of flying. This data suggests a broad spectrum of unease across generations, with varying degrees of worry about the safety of flying.

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