Designing for Aviophobia


For this 1 hour sprint for human-centered design, we focused on embracing constraint, identifying and researching the pain points of a particular a customer segment, and designing a solution. The target audience? The 25% of travelers that suffer from aviophobia or similar airplane-related anxiety. 


  • People who fear flying typically arrived at the airport 2-3 hours before the plane departs, which leads to stressful downtime.
  • The plane ticket is a manifestation of their fear, a constant reminder of the journey they have ahead of them.
  • Some users gave accounts of sitting in their plane seats clutching sickness bags.


The approach? Reduce anxiety through distraction and by shifting the traveler’s focus from the journey to the destination.

Passengers who suffer from such angst would choose alternate modes of transportation if they could, but they have no other options. Shifting focus from the journey to the destination helps travelers stay goal-oriented and reminds them of the light at the end of the tunnel.


These insights and strategies for eliminating stress helped me arrive at a solution that incorporated underlying infrastructure that already exists in airports. For now, that includes using boarding passes and – based on the sickness insight – the vomit bags found in the seat back pocket of airplanes.

  • The boarding pass places emphasis on the destination.
  • Identifying the specific information passengers require at different stages of the airport journey guided layout design.
  • The focus on destination makes it easier for travelers with transfer flights and multiple boarding passes to identify the correct pass.
  • The smaller boarding pass that gets ripped of during boarding has the dimensions of a credit card to fit in the wallet (solves another pain point). At this stage of travel, seat number and gate are most important; these are surfaced immediately at the top of the pass.
  • The games on the back provide an avenue for distraction. Some games even incorporate elements of exploration in the airport and engagement with various shops/points of interest.

  • Simple prompts on the vomit bag challenge the user to reconsider how the bag is used. Holding the vomit bag leads to even more queasiness; by using it as a drawing pad, the mind can shift its focus through distraction and art-therapy.
  • Awareness of mindfulness and relaxation techniques repurposes the vomit bag into an infographic.

Anyone can use these solutions. The goal was an exercise in designing for the 1% to improve the experience for 100%. Using these principles of design thinking, we were able to find a small but effective and easy-to-implement solution.

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