Boring disclaimer bit: I haven’t been paid in any way for this review, though the lovely people at SkyGuru did provide me with a free copy . All opinions and recommendations are most definitely my own! Now, on to the fun bit!
Travel App Reviews: SkyGuru
30% of people suffer from a fear of flying – pretty high, right? And until fairly recently, I definitely counted in the 30%.
After all, there’s quite a few reasons to be nervous about flying (or to give it its proper name, aviophobia). You’re in a metal tube, travelling at abut 500mph, 38,000 feet above the ground. There is a yawning abyss below you. Although it happens rarely, planes have crashed due to technical or human error. You can be the most experienced traveller out there, and still feel a frisson of fear in the pit of your stomach when you step on the plane.
My first flight was when I was 8 years old. Not the most practical child, I remember really looking forward to going on my first foreign holiday, but not really giving much thought as to how I was going to get there. When my parents and my brother and I got to the departure lounge of Gatwick Airport, they had large plate glass windows which allowed to to watch the planes take off and land.
Apparently, I turned a rather interesting shade of green.
It’s something that’s never really gone away. Even though I’ve done some quite long flights, the anxiety about trusting my life to a piece of machinery has been ever-present. I even cancelled a trip a week before departure, losing an eye-watering total of £1500, mostly because the anxiety about the flight was so overwhelming. As you can see, I am something of an expert in aviophobia, despite travel being one of the main loves of my life.
SkyGuru: A pilot in your pocket
If you suffer from a fear of flying, what can you do about it?
Some people turn to hypnotherapy; others will consider courses run by airlines. However, both of these options can be quite expensive. I don’t doubt that they work, but if you’re on a budget, it’s easy to be put off by the cost. Plus, there’s always that doubt in your mind that maybe you’ll be fine on the course, but what about the flights afterwards? Will you be able to remember what you learnt, and have the mental discipline to put it into practise?
So imagine this: if you could be guaranteed to sit with a pilot on every flight you took, and they could calmly explain to you what was going on during your flight, would that make you feel less nervous? If they could tell you “we’re going to dip a bit in a minute, but it’s totally normal”, would that make you calmer when it happened? (speaking for myself, that’s usually when I grab the chair in front of my in a death-grip.)
I think we can all agree that one of the main causes of fear is a lack of information. We don’t know why something is happening, and it instantly makes us wary of it – it’s a survival instinct. If you’re informed, the fear is eased, or eradicated completely.
And that was what drew me to SkyGuru.
How does SkyGuru work?
As soon as I found the SkyGuru app, I knew that I had to try it and review it. And I’m so glad I did.
Although my anxiety has been improving in leaps and bounds thanks to a kickass anxiety course, the fear of flying is a hard one to conquer, and I’ll take any help I can get. The beauty of SkyGuru is that it’s just like the situation I described above, with a pilot explaining everything that’s going on, but that pilot is on your mobile phone. And unlike a CD or podcast, which can only give you a generic reassurance as you listen to it, the app uses the sensors on your mobile phone to measure and listen to everything that’s going on in the plane, and let you know about it.
And before you ask – yes, it works in airplane mode!
SkyGuru was developed by Alex Gervash, an Israeli pilot and psychologist with over 22 years of flying experience, who also runs courses to help beat flying anxiety. So if anyone’s going to be clued up on what you need to know to help you relax, it’s him! The app also uses professional aviation data, which it accesses and uploads to your phone before takeoff, to make the information it gives you completely accurate for your individual flight. No generic reassurances here; this is tailor-made information for what is happening to you in that exact moment.
So let’s look at some of the specific functions.
If you’re getting nervous in the build up to the flight, then you’re in luck – SkyGuru will do it’s best to put your mind at rest before you even set out. You can add your flight to the app 24 hours in advance (don’t be tempted to do it sooner); you can then download a fear-busting video from Alex Gervash, or just check out the info that SkyGuru is already giving you – it’ll analyse your flight to advise on which seat to pick once you’re on the plane, and if there’s any possible delays.
Real-time turbulence forecast
For a lot of aviophobics, turbulence is the factor which really triggers your fears. No-one likes that sensation of being bounced around, or even worse, when you feel like the plane is dropping. SkyGuru takes a look at professional aviation weather forecasts for the route you’ll be flying, and has it up-to-date just before you put your phone into airplane mode. Because it can monitor your position and altitude, it’ll warn you of turbulence before it even happens, and explain why it’s happening, and how it’s completely safe.
As I mentioned above, SkyGuru reviews the weather situation for your route on that day. If you’re flying into an area with adverse weather, or you’re simply worried about high winds, ice etc are going to affect your flight, the app can inform you on how it’ll change your flight experience.
Sounds and feelings
SkyGuru uses the technology of your phone to its advantage (it’s amazing how much your phone can still do when it’s in airplane mode!), particularly in regards to the sensors. It can listen to what’s going on around it, and therefore advise you on any sounds or sensations that might be alarming. It can also monitor the altitude and bearing of the plane, so if there’s any turns or banking, it’ll let you know why it’s happening, and take the mystery away.
Sounds good in theory! How does it work in practise?
Answer: very well indeed!
I decided to try out the app on my flight from London Southend (SEN) to Amsterdam (AMS). I was nervous about this flight even though it’s incredibly short, so it seemed an excellent opportunity to give it a go!
The app correctly showed everything as being on time before departure (as I entered my flight number in the airport with my sweaty paws), though we took off a little late. This wasn’t a problem at all, however; the app was excellent at measuring which stage of the flight the aircraft was currently at. I discovered that in the event of the app getting a little ahead of itself, it’s very easy to correct it by tapping a menu and choosing which stage you’re at, such as “Taxiing”, “Take Off” etc. You need to hold your phone on a level so that it can properly measure your altitude, but I found this very easy to do (once the flight is underway, pop it on the fold-down table).
One of my favourite moments came when we were taxiing. Sitting behind me, I had three lads who were your typical Amsterdam weekenders (I’m not sure that they were going for the museums and cultural experiences, let’s put it that way). They were pretty rowdy all the while during boarding and taxiing, until a loud noise filled the cabin: a metallic whoof whoof whoof grating noise, and I could hear the lads immediately go a bit quieter. One of them said “is it meant to make that noise?” in a quieter voice, and his friends didn’t know either. I, however, glanced down at SkyGuru and saw that it was the plane’s hydraulics system, and was completely normal. It even described it perfectly, as sounding like a barking dog. This was great, as I’m pretty certain that it was something that I would’ve worried about otherwise!
During the flight, the app worked perfectly, and I was impressed by how responsive it was to what was happening. We experienced some slight bumping straight after takeoff, and SkyGuru immediately informed me that it was due to the sky being very clear (which actually creates more turbulence than clouds). It also occasionally reminded me to relax, and to control my own reactions.
It also kept me informed about conditions at my destination. This was great, because it was snowing at Amsterdam Schiphol when I arrived, but the app reassured me that landing conditions were absolutely normal. And so it proved!
Do I recommend SkyGuru for anxious travellers?
The app worked absolutely flawlessly. It kept me informed, and dispelled any fears before I even had them, and its ability to correctly identify which stage of the flight I was on and respond accordingly was genuinely impressive. I also discovered that one (possibly!) unintended benefit of the app was that it kept me distracted – rather than worrying about what was going on around me, I was engaged in what the app was displaying. Rather than fearing the information, such as my altitude and speed, I was actually finding it pretty cool. It also gives you enough facts about general aviation that I was becoming interested in the process and aviation industry in general.
If anyone is going to criticise SkyGuru for anything, it’s probably that you have to pay to receive the full flight information, as opposed to the free ‘lite’ version. But, I wouldn’t agree with this. First, paying for the full version is completely worth it – at a cost of $19.99 (or local equivalent), it’s considerably cheaper than hypnotherapy or flight classes, and you’ve got it forever. But if you don’t want to commit to that, or you just want it as and when needed, you can buy individual flights for a very small cost. You’re paying for a good quality product.
I seriously advise anyone who suffers from flight anxiety or nerves to check out SkyGuru. To put it into perspective, I had zero fears on my return flight from Amsterdam, because I knew that I was going to be using the app. I landed back in the UK, and thought to myself “I’m actually looking forward to flying again soon”, and that is a massive, massive turnaround from my previous mindset.
SkyGuru is available for iOS and Android, download it here and let it help you change your life!
Suffer from a fear of flying? Tempted to try SkyGuru? Let me know below in the comments!