Superstition in the air


Today is Friday the thirteenth. The ‘unluckiest’ day of the year. Or so they say. A day when many people are extra careful. Or practice their superstition rituals a little harder, just in case. Aviation is no stranger to superstitions.

Counting for beginners: 11, 12… 14?
In many Western cultures, the number thirteen is unlucky. Flying on the thirteenth day of the month (let alone Friday the 13th), or sitting in row 13 in the plane are the kind of things that make many people feel uncomfortable. That’s why some airlines, such as KLM, have a row 14 and a row 12 - but nothing in between. That way nobody has to sit in the dreaded row 13. 

But if you’re flying with an Italian company, there is a good chance that row 17 will be missing too, in addition to row 13. That’s because the Roman numeral for seventeen, XVII, also spells the Latin word vixi. That means ‘I have lived’, which you could take to mean ‘I’m about to die’. So the number seventeen is unlucky for Italians.

Did you know... that Finnair operated a flight with the “dangerous” number 666 for years? The destination was HEL (Helsinki). And that flight even took off at the 13th hour of the day. Also on Friday the 13th. 

Best of luck!
For many people, flying is a stressful experience at the best of times. Even when the date showing on the calendar is just a normal day. Many people have their own way of trying to make sure their flight goes smoothly. Some touch the outside of the aircraft as they are boarding. Others hold on tightly to their travel companion's hand during take-off. In China, people believe that throwing coins at the aircraft brings good luck. But in practice this can lead to delays because aircraft engines and coins can be an unfortunate combination. The coins have to be picked up before the aircraft can take off. And that can take a while.

Did you know... that a Chinese passenger had to pay a 15,000 euros fine to an airline after trying to throw coins into one of the engines while boarding?

Situation normal?
Some pilots have their own rituals too. Some always eat the same meal before a flight, or always take the same route to the airport. And some pilots are superstitious too. For example, many pilots believe it is unlucky to take a photograph of the aircraft before departure, and pointing towards the sky is also ‘not done’. This could lead to bad weather. 

Business as usual
With so many superstitions around, you would think that almost nobody would want to travel on Friday the thirteenth. But the planes keep flying. And there are just as many flights on Friday the thirteenth as on any other Friday. And the number of passengers that we expect on 13 December is no different from any other day. So Friday the thirteenth looks like being a pretty normal day at Schiphol, after all.