Faith in the safety of air travel nosedived this week in the wake of the tragic Ethiopian Airlines plane crash that claimed 157 lives.
Such incidents often had a negative psychological impact on travellers, explained Charl Davids, counselling psychologist and deputy director for the Centre for Student Counselling and Development at Stellenbosch University.
“Sometimes I think our fear of flying is quite irrational and it comes down to how it’s reported in the media.
"We don’t necessarily do the same thing, for example, with a car crash,” Davids said.
“More people die in motor vehicle accidents than in airline crashes. When a plane goes down all media houses cover it. Immediately, people think. ‘I’m not going to get into another plane’.
"It all comes down to our reactions to a traumatic event. We’re not a part of it but we witness it.
“When we experience trauma, we don’t need to be directly involved. It’s never the event itself, it’s the perception of the event. That’s why people will have particular reactions to it,” said Davids.
Was this rational?
“The reality is that when I get in the car I might die, or when I get into a plane, something might go wrong and that’s the reality. It’s the kind of thing we fear but we do it anyway.”
Countries around the world have closed off their air spaces to the Boeing 737 MAX 8, the same model of aircraft that crashed in Indonesia in October, killing 189 people.
Sue Garrett, of Flight Centre, said the company made a decision to cover the change penalties “should a Flight Centre customer not feel comfortable flying on a Boeing 737 MAX 8 and want to be moved to a flight on another aircraft.”
All 371 models of the aircraft in operation worldwide have been pulled from the skies.
In South Africa, Comair, which has eight Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes on order, has grounded the one currently in the country.
“Comair took delivery of its first MAX 8 on February 21.
"This is the first of eight, ordered as part of a fleet renewal strategy, with the last aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2022,” said a company spokesperson.
Boeing, said the spokesperson, agreed to defer the delivery of Comair’s second 737 Max 8.
“The US Federal Aviation Authority followed many other regulators around the world and issued a directive to temporarily stop any 737 MAX 8 commercial passenger flights.
"Comair cannot operate the aircraft until this is lifted. Comair continues to consult with Boeing, technical experts and other operators,” said the spokesperson.
Kabelo Ledwaba, spokesperson for the SA Civil Aviation Authority, confirmed there were two Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft on the South African Aircraft Register belonging to one operator, of which only one was in operation.
European low-cost airline Norwegian Air, which has 18 MAX 8 planes in its fleet, became the first airline to demand that Boeing pay for lost flight time, while India’s SpiceJet said it would seek compensation from Boeing for repair and overhaul of its 12 grounded aircraft.