Whether you have a Holmes-esque rationality or are as superstitious as they come, you may appreciate the various air travel superstitions that have arisen over the years. You might not think there wouldn’t be any in our modern world. But that is not how people operate. I figure Friday the 13th is the most fitting day to discuss air travel superstitions.
Air Travel Superstitions of the General Masses
As it tuns out, the general masses are rather superstitious. Reportedly, 65% of people indulge in some sort of ritual before flying in the belief that it will keep them out of harm’s way. Topping the list of things passengers do as part of their boarding ritual? Touching the outside of the aircraft. The runner up is bringing along a good luck charm or mascot, although its possible the same people just do this through all of life.
Some of the other items are what one would expect, including avoiding certain rows. Unlike hotels that often skip the 13th floor, most planes have a row 13. Someone is going to get stuck there. Avoiding certain flight numbers or flying on Friday the 13th are other superstitions passengers hold. A couple years ago you could have taken the ultimate “superstition flight” when Finnair flight 666 made its final hop to HEL on Friday the 13th.
Some pre-flight rituals can have bad consequences, however. It’s fine if your ritual includes eating the same pre-flight meal or enjoying the same beverage, but don’t chuck coins into the enguinge for good luck. There has been a spat of incidents in China where this has happened. Besides delaying the flight while mechanics search for the coins, China is now charging some passengers for the loss.
Pilots can be a superstitious bunch as well. Some of the rituals can be attributed to either bygone days when air travel wasn’t nearly as safe, or to habits picked up during training flights in smaller aircraft. But there are a few pilot air travel superstitions that I find interesting.
First up is pilots not talking about plane crashes in the cockpit, as it forebodes something going wrong on the current flight. This makes sense from simply a social setting. Even if I didn’t care, I would avoid talking about crashes. not wanting to stress out the other pilots and crew who might be superstitious.
Pilots are a like passengers at least in one way: they like to touch the plane. But not just the fuselage beside the door when stepping aboard. Touching the nose is best, for good luck. But to get there they wouldn’t walk in front of the engine, as that is bad luck.
Other favorites: carrying a good luck charm or putting a photo of friends or family in their hat.
One final thought is: are airfares sales impacted on Friday the 13th? While I don’t see a one day blip in sales as much of a cause for concern for an airline, I would not be surprised if they did see a small slide in the number of bookings made that day. I’m not concerned. I have no air travel superstitions. I literally just booked a flight for work this morning. It was even Delta flight 1301.