Airplane Superstitions



Just recently I took a flight out East. I had known from checking the weather that we would be flying through a weather system. So I mentally prepared myself for the possibility of turbulence during the flight. After we reached the cruising altitude the captain got on the intercom to welcome us on board and to state that the flight attendants would be going through their drink service rather quickly as soon as he finished speaking. The pilot also added that the second half of the flight would be bumpy. As soon as the flight attendants concluded the drink service the lead attendant got on the intercom to stress that we should “REMAIN SEATED FOR THE REST OF THE FLIGHT.” As soon as she concluded, the plane was rocked from below and I grabbed my hot coffee off the tray table before it splashed and burned anyone. I drank my coffee fast, and it burned, but I was more worried about the shaking plane, the blood rushing away from my cheeks and whether or not we were going to make it.


I’m a nervous flyer. I was not always a nervous flyer. Once upon a time I was actually a flight attendant myself, but that was another life. I actually quit the flight attendant job because of superstition. The flight crew was scheduled to stay overnight in a hotel…that used to serve as a Civil War hospital. I called my supervisor right then and there and said I could not sleep in that hotel. The supervisor thought me silly and refused to change my schedule. After hearing countless stories from other flight crews I preferred to quit than to be awaken by the ghost of a soldier at the foot of my bed. It all worked out, I suppose, I finished college, got married, and well am here now. Coincidentally the tragedy of September 9, 2001 happened just two weeks after I quit the airline. It crossed my mind if there was a possibility that I could have been on any of those flights, and yes, it could have been possible. Since then, I have terribly feared flying.


I have some flight superstitions of my own, but I’m so superstitious I will not share my own. However, here are a few flying superstitions that I have come across.



It is considered bad luck to say words associated with an accident in an airport or on a plane. Words such as “crash,” “evacuation,” “forced landing,” and so on should be avoided.



There are people who believe it is good luck to either tap the exterior of the plane as they are boarding, or the interior of the plane when they arrive at their seat. Some people also believe it matters where you tap the plane, for example, some prefer tapping the right side.



This is one I have yet to see. There are people who believe that it is good luck to do a little dance when they board the plane. Humor them if you see them.



This one really varies. There are some people who believe they must count objects on the plane for good luck, for example rows or people on board. Within the same group of people there are also people who need to find a familiar object, face or person in order for them to believe their flight will be safe. For example, some people look for babies as they feel that babies on board a plane signals good luck.



This is the most common superstition I have come across. There are people who avoid flights associated with certain numbers believing them bad luck. For example, American Airlines and Delta Airlines have banned flight numbers 191 given there have been some crashes associated with those numbers:

1967: Flight 191, experimental X-15 military plane

1979: American Airlines 191, 271 people died when the plane crashed near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

2006: Comair 5191, 49 people dead in a crash in Lexington, Kentucky

2012: JetBlue 191, the pilot had a meltdown in air and got on the intercom and said: ​”This is your captain freaking… “Pray f–king now for Jesus Christ…This plane will never make it to Vegas…We’re all going down!” Thankfully, passengers were able to restrain him


Other unlucky numbers associated with flying or flight numbers include 911, 666, and the number 13. Many airlines do not have a 13th row or even a 13th gate.



I don’t think this happens that often today, but I remember people would clap once the plane landed. It was a sign of thanks to the pilot for a flight well done. This is frowned upon by some. Still, I was on a flight maybe 5 years ago where the passengers broke out into an applause after landing.



While flowers are associated with love and holidays they are also associated with funerals so it’s thought bad luck to bring flowers on board a plane.


Do you have any flight superstitions? If so, let us know at Twitter @BurialDayBooks