There’s something about flying that makes me cry. I often shed a tear just after takeoff, as the plane swirls over the city I’ve just left and jettisons toward whatever destination is printed on my boarding pass. I always cry during the movie – whatever movie, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s Me Before You, sometimes it’s Magic Mike. I remember sitting on one flight thinking that everyone must think I’m crazy – Channing Tatum is stripping and I am bawling my eyes out.
At first, I concluded it was because I was leaving loved ones behind when I hit the road – or because I was leaving new friends behind when returning home. But the more people I tell my Magic Mike story to, the more I realise that I am not alone here.
While there’s no scientific research into the phenomenon of crying on planes, Virgin Atlantic’s study of passenger behaviour found that 55 per cent of travellers said they had “experienced heightened emotions while flying,” and a whopping 41 per cent of men stated that they had “buried themselves in blankets to hide tears in their eyes from other passengers.”
In fact, the airline went so far as to issue “weep warnings” before certain films to make sure passengers were prepared, emotionally, for what was to come
According to Ad Vingerhoets, a psychologist and leading expert on crying, adults weep for many of the same reasons that babies do, and being in the confined cabin of a plane tends to exacerbate these reasons.
You’re suspended mid-air, you’re vulnerable, the lights are dim, there are strangers all around you. You have a blanket, a small cup, mini cutlery. You do what you’re told. Brett Matin talks about this at length in his episode of This American Life.
You also develop an intimate relationship with your in-flight entertainment system, which is – unless you are at the pointy end of the plane – usually less than a metre from your nose. Virgin Atlantic film critic Jason Solomons says, “Flying and films is a heady cocktail … the images and feelings so close to your eyeballs, so intimate.”
Virgin Atlantic’s research found the following films were most likely to have us in tears (I seem to be along when it comes to Magic Mike…). What movies have made you cry while in the air?
The top 10 tearjerkers
- Toy Story 3
- The Blind Side
- Eat Pray Love
- My Sister’s Keeper
- Seven Pounds
- Brokeback Mountain
- The Notebook
- Gran Torino
- Billy Elliot