ABU DHABI // A British schoolboy stranded in the UAE without his mother and sister for more than a year because of a crippling fear of flying has finally arrived back in the UK – after being hypnotised on a plane.
Several previous attempts to get Joe Thompson, 12, to board a plane failed because of an acute phobia that left him terrified of travelling.
However, a year-and-a-half after he first developed the fear, Joe, accompanied by his father Tony, 62, landed at Heathrow airport on Monday after a session with the hypnotherapist Russell Hemmings.
It spelt the end of an ordeal that left Joe separated from his mother Pauline and sister Chloe, who had returned home without him, and his beloved dog Rebel.
It also left the family with a Dh235,000 medical bill as baffled doctors tried to cure Joe’s condition.
The Thompson family had intended to move back to their home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in July last year, having lived in Al Ain for several years.
But Joe had an anxiety disorder diagnosed that first prevented him flying, then left him unable to travel by any means.
He tried four times to board a plane with his family – but each time refused to fly after suffering panic attacks.
His fear later meant he was also unable to travel by boat or car – scuppering plans by his father, who had stayed with Joe in the UAE, to get him home by sea or road.
Before the sudden onset of his phobia, which first appeared in March 2012, Joe had flown long-haul all his life.