The Air Up There Podcast
Zen Traveler: Tips for Mastering Air Travel Stress

Season 5, Episode 7

Flying can be an exciting adventure, but for many, it comes with an unwelcome companion – stress. Whether it's a fear of flying or the anxiety of navigating busy airports, managing stress is a very real part of air travel.

In our latest podcast episode, "Zen Traveler: Tips for Mastering Air Travel Stress," we spoke with Tampa International Airport’s CJ Johnson, who shares helpful tips for navigating stress at the airport. For example, did you know that many airports offer guided tours in advance of a flight to help familiarize travelers with the airport environment to ease stress on the day of travel?

Plus, we talked with Kendra Blackett-Dibinga, a world traveler and owner of Bikram Yoga Works yoga and wellness studios who shared practical stretching and breathing exercises that you can even do while seated on an airplane, and how mindfulness can help us all be more conscientious travelers.

Tune in for their expert advice on soaring above stress and anxiety during air travel.  With some preparation and yoga-inspired techniques, you too can elevate your travel experience.

Inhale, exhale, and meditate on this final episode of Season 5 of "The Air Up There." Don’t forget to share this episode with your friends, family, and colleagues to give them new tools for reducing stress on their next flight.

Zen Traveler: Tips for Mastering Air Travel Stress
Zen Traveler: Tips for Mastering Air Travel Stress
Audio file

CJ Johnson: An airport can be confusing even with, you know, clear signs, and directions, and staff. It can still sometimes be a stressful place. 

Kendra Blackett-Dibinga: A simple six count breath is actually all you need to slow your heart rate down. 

CJ Johnson: Arriving early is key in making sure that you are less stressed.  
Kendra Blackett-Dibinga: If we all become conscientious travelers, then we can make the experience better for everyone. 

Voiceover: Welcome to the Air Up There. A podcast about the wide world of aerospace. Presented by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ryan Willis: Hello. I'm your host, Ryan Willis. While it’s reassuring to know that flying is the safest way to travel, it can still be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. Coming up, we’ll talk with Kendra Blackett-Dibinga who has tips on how yoga and mindfulness can help you manage air travel stress. But first, we’ll kick things off, with CJ Johnson from Tampa International Airport who has insider tips for you on reducing stress at the airport.
Ryan Willis: CJ, how's it going today? 
CJ Johnson: Hey, Ryan, it's great. I am so excited to be with you.  
Ryan Willis: Why don't we start by just tell me a little bit about what you do for TPA? What is your role? What is your background? 
CJ Johnson: Sure. So, I'm CJ Johnson. And I essentially manage the day-to-day social media of the Tampa International Airport. And then also really working hard on our community management. One of the things that makes TPA unique is that we have a central main terminal. And then each we have four different air sides that split off from that. So that helps individuals who are traveling to have often very, very quick wait times as they're going through TSA. We're customer focused, customer obsessed, a lot of innovative technology and things that we're using and testing out to make sure people who are traveling through our airport have a fun and fast experience. 
Ryan Willis: What do you think stresses out people the most about flying? 
CJ Johnson: From a personal experience, I think it's A that fear of the unknown, and B, the lack of control. You know, a lot of people don't fly that frequently. So, it can be an unusual experience for them A to even be at an airport, B, as you know, with delays and cancellations that can add stress to the traveler. So, we always encourage people to check directly with their airline. To plan ahead, if they're going to be traveling to look at the flight schedule, before they even leave home, to make sure things are on time. And to always contact their airline if they're seeing delays or any kind of cancellations. Just so that they're feeling a little more informed that can help you know destress individuals when they're flying. 
Ryan Willis: A lot of times, we’re rushing to the airport, just getting there and having to go through TSA, and you do your due diligence, and you get there several hours early.  
CJ Johnson: Arriving early is key, that's a key to success and making sure that you are less stressed. We always encourage people for domestic flights to arrive two hours early. And for international travel to arrive three hours early. That's key number one.  
Ryan Willis: What other types of things have you seen that airports are offering to passengers to kind of help those experiences? 
CJ Johnson: You know, one of the things that we do recommend is we offer a lot of guided tours of the airport. So, for someone who's never been to an airport, it can be, it can be a stressful experience. And so, we offer things like that for them to help them just familiarize themselves with the airport before they arrive. An airport can be confusing, even with you know, clear signs and directions and staff, it can still sometimes be a stressful place. So, we offer tours ahead of time for individuals who are trying to familiarize themselves with the airport. 
Ryan Willis: What would you say is the No. 1 question you get from travelers? 
CJ Johnson: It's usually about delays and cancellations. And so, it's always important to remember that those questions are best answered by someone's airline.  
Ryan Willis: What is the most unusual thing I guess you would find it at TPA? 
CJ Johnson: I think that our 20-something-foot flamingo in the middle of the terminal is probably the most unusual thing people will see at the airport. We've named her, nicknamed her Phoebe. And she is directly in the middle of the main terminal hard to miss. And she has become an icon in Tampa Bay. We get tagged in selfies for all the time.  
Ryan Willis: I like it. I might actually have to take a trip down there just to see Pheobe. Is there anything that you would like, in general travelers to know about airports? 
CJ Johnson: Make sure you're kind and patient with everyone on the ground. And in the air, it's so, so important to treat others with dignity and respect. We're all in this together. We're all trying to get somewhere. Just treat them with the dignity and respect that you would want to be treated with and it'll help make the travel experience so much better.  
Ryan Willis: Absolutely. I agree one hundred percent. Once again, CJ, I want to thank you for being on the podcast and telling us how we can all destress and be a little kinder to each other. 
CJ Johnson: We'll hopefully see you through TPA sometime soon.

Ryan Willis: Looking forward to it.

Ryan Willis: Those are great tips. Get to the airport early and always check with your airlines if you have questions about your flight. Up next is Kendra Blackett-Dibinga, a world traveler and the owner of Bikram Yoga Works yoga and wellness studio. And she has some great advice on minimizing stress while flying and the impact that mindfulness can have.   
Ryan Willis: How are you doing today?

Kendra Blackett-Dibinga: I’m doing well, actually. Thank you.
Ryan Willis: We're hoping to kind of get your expertise…you're a world traveler. I don’t know if you would say you're a yogian or you are a yoga practitioner?
Kendra Blackett-Dibinga: Funny enough, yes. Currently, I am a yoga studio owner, but I teach yoga and fitness classes. And so, movement has become kind of like my lifestyle. Before that though, I actually worked in international development. And so, I was on a plane pretty much every month going somewhere. And most of my travel got me through Europe and to the African continent. So pretty long travel.
Ryan Willis: What are some of the things that I can do before I get ready to travel before, I leave my house, physically, or mentally to prep myself before I head out to the airport?
Kendra Blackett-Dibinga: I think for me, a lot of anxiety around travel is just not being prepared. A lot of anxiety around life in general is probably, is just not being prepared, right? So, what actually I recently started doing is I have a little bag and so, all the main things that I know I’m going to need on my trip whether it’s like my toiletries. Whether it’s, you know, an extra outfit that I need to wear in case my bags get lost. I put them in one little bag that’s just my to-go bag. So, when I’m ready to travel, I know I won’t forget the items that I normally forget. I tend to be a last-minute packer because that's just kind of my life. I tend to pack last minute and that's why I started thinking I need a strategy. Having those things prepared for you will decrease your stress immensely. 
Ryan Willis: Yeah, I'm totally last-minute packer, like, so, I'm glad I'm not the only one. So, you get to the airport you get there a plenty of time. So now that I'm there, what are some other tips that you might have? Do you ever do any kind of yoga or any kind of wellness activities in the airport?
Kendra Blackett-Dibinga: Not necessarily in the airport. Unless I'm there for a long time. I intend to do stretch a lot on the plane. What I notice for me and recently, this has been changing on the planes, like some of the seats don’t recline anymore so you’re in a position where you’re pretty hunched forward. If you're in a seat that's not reclining. That means your neck is in a forward position and very uncomfortable actually. And so, I try to do a lot of front side neck stretching to just make, otherwise you end up with a tense neck where it’s just kind of hunched forward in a, you know, continuous position like that that's not really good for your spine.
Ryan Willis: Can you actually either describe what maybe it's one of those exercises or is there something that you could actually walk us through? 
Kendra Blackett-Dibinga: If you're sitting in the seat, an easy way to stretch the neck is just putting your hands over the throat. You can always just hunch your shoulders up and then as you are pulling the neck down, the skin of the neck you can look up. This gives you a good front side neck stretch, but you have to, yeah, intentionally pull the skin of the neck down and look up at the same time. So, you can really do that nicely. And then you can do the same thing on the right and on the left. So, you're going to pull the skin of the neck down looking up to the right and then on the other side, pull the right-side neck down and then look up to the left. So, I like to do those stretches a lot because it helps a lot of the backside neck issues come from the front side - it’s because you're hunched forward. I do also do as I said upper body shoulder stretching. So, I will put my hands just behind my head, and I lift up and I, again, still looking back. So that allows my spine to really open up. Again, not being in that hunched forward position. It's also a good heart opener as well, for anyone who's experiencing a lot of stress when they're traveling. So, I like to look up and then open the chest as I look back. And so, it pushes me away from the seat. Because as I said, the seat really rounds your upper back in an unusual way. And this is I'm seeing it more and more on the on the planes when the seats don't recline, especially.
Ryan Willis: What about any kind of like breathing techniques or anything, maybe for those fliers who are a little bit more anxious, maybe there's people who haven't really been on a plane before? 
Kendra Blackett-Dibinga: Yeah, for me, breathing is so is key to everything. But a simple six count breath is actually all you need to slow your, it'll slow the heart rate down. It 'll kind of put your, it'll actually just calm your central nervous system down. So, I like, when I’m getting stressed out or I’m just kind of feeling really, really tired or anxious, I just start to inhale, and I count it to six. I hold it and then I exhale the same six counts and you just find that the body just really releases the tension as you do that.
Ryan Willis: Is there anything else that you'd want to you would kind of just want the general public to know, just kind of wellness in general? 
Kendra Blackett-Dibinga: I think that at the end of the day, everybody benefits from being more mindful on terms of how I show up. Understanding how it is I'm feeling. Oftentimes, I would not have slept the night before, and I'm about to get on a plane and I'm frustrated, I'm tired. And so, it's like, understanding that and I'm like, okay. If we all become conscientious travelers then we can make the experience better for everyone. If you haven’t traveled, go ahead and travel. You know, with a little bit of preparation, you could have a great time and minimize the hiccups that inevitably happen with travel. 
Ryan Willis: 
Conscientious traveler. I’m going to use that one. I’ll give you credit.

Kendra Blackett-Dibinga: Alright.

FAA Unruly PSA: Did you know that the FAA can propose up to $37,000 in fines per violation for an unruly passenger on an airplane? I don’t know if you caught that last part – that’s $37,000 PER VIOLATION. And one unruly passenger incident on an airplane can result in multiple violations. So that unruly fine could be $37,000, plus another $37,000, and then an additional $37,000 – in total – a lot. You could also be prosecuted on criminal charges. Bottom line, interfering with the duties of a crewmember or failing to follow their instructions violates federal law and the repercussions can be substantial. So, on your next flight, just be polite. We’re all just trying to get to where we’re going safely. To learn more, visit

Ryan Willis: Thanks for listening. We hope you’ve picked up a few tricks for de-stressing when you fly. Give yourself extra time at the airport by arriving early, try simple neck stretches during your flight to ease tense muscles, and be cordial to those you meet along your journey.  
If you’ve enjoyed this episode, leave us a review and share these stress-reducing air travel tips with your friends. Speaking of rest and relaxation, it’s time for use to take a break. This episode concludes Season 5 of The Air Up There podcast – but we’re gearing up for Season 6. So, make sure you like, follow, subscribe to get updates on the new season – and – if you’re an aerospace geek, like us, check out the older episodes to get caught up. Until then, safe travels and Namaste.
Voiceover: The Air Up There is a production of the Federal Aviation Administration. For a transcript of this episode and to follow us on social media for the latest aviation safety news and guidance, visit That’s

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