Home Airlines The Superstitious Stuff Passengers Do When Flying (Including Me)

The Superstitious Stuff Passengers Do When Flying (Including Me)

by joeheg

Many people have superstitions when they travel. That’s why you’ll rarely see a hotel with the 13th floor. I doubt there’s no place where people have more superstitions or rituals than when flying on an airplane. As passengers, we lack control of our situation, and you know that being 37,000 feet in the air isn’t something our bodies were designed for.

So people develop their own little habits when flying. We’re not talking about people who are afraid to fly, because there are ways to help them cope with their fears. There are plenty of superstitions or rituals, so that means there are plenty of people, like me, doing “something” to keep their mind and body occupied onboard a plane.

The Telegraph asked 1,894 people what type of superstitions they have when flying. The most common one is touching the outside of the plane when boarding. Just know that if you like to do that, so do 17% of the other people on board, so use your hand sanitizer once you get to your seat. Other people bring a good luck charm or stuffed animal with them or recite a prayer or mantra. These looked rather generic. My ritual doesn’t fit any of those categories. What else is out there?

I found a post from 2011 which had more things like what I was looking for:

Travel: Superstitious airline passengers lift their feet during takeoff to help plane get aloft

That’s more like it. Kudos to the person who admitted to this. You make the rest of us feel better about ourselves.

I loved reading people tell of their superstitions & rituals, and the reasonings behind them. What we do to make our minds think that we have some level of control is fascinating to me.

As the plane begins the takeoff roll, I whirl my finger around in a small circle faster and faster as the plane accelerates down the runway,” the Troy, Mich., man, 62, said. “My thinking is that this will help keep the engines running as we prepare to climb into the air. Fortunately, I have not had a situation where this didn’t work—at least not yet.

In 1987, a Northwest airliner crashed at Detroit Metro (Airport), killing all aboard except for one child,” said Linda Ogden, 60, of Macomb Township, Mich. “The cause of the crash was determined to be the flaps and slats not being extended during takeoff. As a result, my silent mantra, as the plane is lumbering down the runway, is ‘flaps and slats, flaps and slats, flaps and slats.’

Years ago, Michael Konesko, 57, of Saginaw, Mich., started listening to Bonnie Raitt music on a Sony Walkman cassette while in the air. He now has an iPod, but his superstition still requires him to listen to Raitt.

“I listen to Bonnie as the first group of music, even before moving to other artists or even watching a movie,” he said. “I have never been on a plane that crashed while listening to her, so why risk it?”

While the post is almost a decade old, I found it to be a great read. Besides telling the passengers’ stories, it also has commentary from psychologists explaining why each of the behaviors might help a person relax.

Time for me to ‘fess up. I have my own ritual I do whenever I fly. When we start our takeoff roll, I start alternating between making fists with my toes and twiddling my thumbs. Ten each. Over and over until we’re off the ground and I feel comfortable that we’re on our way. Know why I do this? Die Hard.

I’d guess that the movie came out around the time I started traveling by myself. Flying away from home, alone, can be difficult. I needed something to calm me down and this was the first thing that popped into my head. I put my own little twist on it by doing it on the plane and added the hand motions for good measure.

For a while, instead of twiddling my thumbs, I made circles with my wrists. Sharon brought it to my attention that particular activity was potentially distracting to the other passengers, so I’ve adapted and now leave my hands in my lap while I twiddle away.

I was today years old when I learned that the advice from Die Hard is rooted in real science. Walking around barefoot grounds you and puts a person in a place where they trust their surroundings.

No matter what your superstitions are, remember that it is never acceptable to throw coins into an aircraft engine.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


David Houghton February 27, 2020 - 12:51 pm

I listen to Strauss’s The Beautiful Danube on every landing.

SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT February 27, 2020 - 5:05 pm

I’m the one sitting next to you who never turns off their electronic device before take-off and landing – otherwise how would I be able to listen to U2! Today, it’s not as big a deal using my device. In the days of the mini-cassette and Walkman’s – I had to hide them under my jacket or blanket. When the F/A’s were seated – I would pop-in the earbuds.

Going back to mini-cassette recorders and the days of the Sony Walkman’s – I play certain tunes from U2 – depending on the aircraft. The beginning of the song is timed to the anticipated take-off time (wheels up) as well as touch-down.
Depending on the aircraft I’m a passenger of – that will dictate the song (has to do with the length of the take-off timed to the song). The song played is different for both take-off and touch-down. Different songs for different aircraft types, whether narrow body, regional jet and/or wide body.

Another variable is whether I’m departing from an airport with a higher altitude like Denver which usually results a longer take-off time.

Some songs I no longer use – as the aircraft is no longer in service: 727-100, 727-200, DC-9 series, MD-80 series (I rarely fly Delta), DC-10, MD-11, etc.They just don’t time correctly with the 787 series and 777-300’s. – but I have songs for those aircraft types as well.

For me, it’s not being superstitious, rather it was a fear of flying. Works much better than loading up on alcohol.

I guess I’m left with a lot of “baggage” from my one flight with Bubba on PeoplExpress!…lol

Thank you for a “fun” read!


joeheg February 27, 2020 - 9:01 pm

So you’d have to start listening to “Where The Streets Have No Name” when the cabin door closes then??? 🙂

SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT February 28, 2020 - 1:11 am

LOL – Funny you mention that – I play that specific tune when departing on a 757-200. The take-off roll of the 757-200 is timed perfectly to the beginning of that song. Doesn’t work so well though from high altitude airports. The roar of the fan jet engines just blend very well with the beginning of that song! Amazingly so – for me that is. I’ve been playing that song since the late 1980’s!


joeheg February 28, 2020 - 1:42 am

If I started my flight like that, I’d just end up listening to the entire album. 🙂


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