By Vicky Anscombe on 29 July 2015

Have you ever seen a fellow passenger dancing a merry jig up the aisle? What about someone who refuses to sit in seat 13? How about the person who can't board unless they've tapped the side of the plane and muttered something sinister under their breath?

You probably have. Welcome to the mind-boggling world of flying superstitions.

Travel by plane has always been, and will always be, a fertile ground for superstition. The flight numbers of crashed planes are taken out of use. Lots of planes don't have a Row 13. Lots of people won't fly on Friday 13th. 

Here, we take a look at some of the most common flying superstitions. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, quite a few of the Columbus Direct team admit to doing these things on board flights - so if you spot any of your own behaviours, you're not alone.

The tappers:

These are the people who make it look as if they're using the side of the plane for support when they board - but watch them as they reach out and caress the plane's surface. They don't need a helping hand; why, they're just reaching out to tap the plane. Extra bonus points if you spot someone surreptitiously kiss their hand/fist before making contact.

Touching the side of a plane

The hand-holders

This is a habit most likely picked up in childhood, when a parent, attempting to calm a child down during take-off or landing, held their hand. Even in adulthood and when flying alone, these people will clasp their hands together during take-off, landing, or any tricky spots of turbulence.

As an aside, if anyone ever asks to hold hands with you during a particularly rough landing, assess the situation thoroughly before appeasing them.

Holding hands

The dancers

From a gentle waltz towards the toilet to a swift jump and toe tap when boarding the plane, these people are sure that a spot of surreptitious dancing will ward away bad luck. And why not? It's a tried and tested method that works in nightclubs.

Ballet dancers

The leapers

When the plane's bouncing around during turbulence, there are two ways to deal with it. Sit tight, try and ignore it and finish your book, or try to move yourself around just as much as the plane so you can't tell where your frantic writhing ends and the movement of the plane begins.


The counters

This isn't such a terrible idea, especially if you don't have a book or music to hand and you're nervous of take-off or landing. These methodical fliers start at 1, and just keep going; normally, by around the 800 mark, the plane is safely in the air or has landed on the ground. It's not known what happens if you interrupt them mid-count. Back to 1, we'd imagine.

Plane fear

The big readers

Whether you believe that airline safety messages are lifesavers or you're forlornly of the opinion that once things start to go wrong, there's no saving you, this lot read the safety leaflets on planes from cover to cover.

Want to catch their attention while the safety demonstrations are going on? Good luck with that; they'll irritably brush your hand away until they know how to unbuckle their seatbelts and inflate their life jackets.

Safety lesson

The pacers

Look - there they go again! This is less of a superstition than a coping mechanism for nervous fliers, or just people who hate sitting still for any length of time. Around and around the airport they go, wandering in and out of Duty Free, a frown on their faces. They'll walk around the entire airport until it's time for their flight - and once they're in their seat, they'll fall asleep.

Man at airport

The self-medicators

Is enjoying half a bottle of wine and some mild sedatives a superstition? Maybe, maybe not. This is probably the most socially-accepted form of people attempting to assert some control over their surroundings and how they feel. You're probably one of them. Ice and a glass?

Red wine

The handsy people

Hark! What's that noise? It's only someone drumming their fingers on the window for the entire flight!

Drumming fingers

The amateur photographers

Some people like to take a picture of the plane and send it to a loved one before they leave; this could be a throwback to first dates, when people let family and friends know who they're with and where they're going. 'Mum, just in case, I'm getting a 9.15am flight to Madrid with Dave. Here's a picture of the plane in case something goes wrong.'

Taking a picture of a plane

The rivet rubbers

This lot don't have the luxury of pretending to support themselves on the side of the plane while secretly touching it (sneaky!). They reach out and rub the rivets by the doors. If they're smooth, it'll be a good flight. If they're rough; well, let's just say the drinks trolley should be fastened away.


Image credit: Shutterstock

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