I've cut and pasted an interesting article on superstitions by David Grossman the Business Traveler
Check your travel superstitions, or carry them on?
On Continental Airlines there is no row 13. The same is true for Air France, AirTran, KLM, and Iberia. Is it a coincidence that the rows jump from 12 to 14? Of course not. Airlines can be very superstitious. Because today is Halloween, I thought a column about travel superstitions and purported apparitions would be appropriate.
"Apparently someone a long time ago (we don't know when) thought we shouldn't have a row 13," says Martin DeLeon, a spokesperson for Continental Airlines. "We have let the row numbering system persist, especially since we don't want to go through the expense of renumbering rows on about 600 aircraft."
"Most people wouldn't want to sit there," says Judy Graham-Weaver, a spokesperson for AirTran. "Whether we believe in the superstition or not if it's the perception of the community we need to go by that."
Superstitions vary by culture. Many Japanese avoid the number four because it sounds like the word for death in their language and the word for nine sounds like the word for torture. Japan-based All Nippon Airways omits rows 4, 9 and 13 even though the unlucky reputation of 13 is allegedly based in Christianity and Viking folklore.
Consistency is not the hallmark of superstition. Japan Airlines' planes have both rows 4 and 9, but no row 13. Surprisingly, a whole slew of Asian carriers including Cathy Pacific, Malaysian, Singapore and Thai Airways also skip row 13.
Seventeen is considered unlucky in Italy because rearranging the letters in the Roman numerals for 17 could spell "VIXI" which means "I lived" in Italian. Lufthansa airplanes do not have row 13 or 17. You would certainly expect Alitalia airplanes to be missing row 17, but this is not the case. To further confusion, Alitalia's Boeing 777s have row 13 while the rest of their fleet does not.
Many airlines do not offer a flight 13 as well. And the Koreans take superstition one step further as there are no gates 4, 13, or 44 at Seoul's Inchon Airport.
Superstitions can also be positive. Northwest and US Airways offer flights 777 and 711, respectively, from Minneapolis and Pittsburgh to Las Vegas. (Related story:Memorable flight numbers)
While sevens and 11s are considered lucky in Western culture, the Chinese consider eight to be lucky because their pronunciation sounds like the word "to acquire wealth." Continental Airlines offers flight 88 from Beijing to Newark and that route was launched with a "lucky" $888 round trip air fare sale, according to DeLeon.
The number seven was not a lucky number for passengers aboard Korean Airlines flight 007 which was shot down by a Russian fighter pilot in 1983 after it accidentally strayed into Russian airspace. Sadly, flights 77 and 11 were also unlucky for the passengers onboard the hijacked American Airlines flights on 9/11.
I can't help but believe that 191 is unlucky after both American and Delta Airlines lost airplanes with that same flight number in separate incidents. Most airlines retire the number of their flight after a crash. I thought skittish passengers might avoid an ill-fated flight number but both AirTran and United told me that retiring those numbers is done out of respect for the families of those who lost loved ones in those tragic incidents.
Hotels are superstitious, too. Fairmont hotels in Acapulco, San Jose, Quebec City and Vancouver do not have a 13th floor. But the Fairmont in Dubai does, according to Lori Holland, director of public relations for Fairmont Hotels. Like most major hotel chains, Fairmont doesn't have an "official policy" on the presence of a 13th floor. Numbering decisions are usually made during construction and many Fairmont hotels were built long before Fairmont acquired those properties, according to Holland.
In Asia, many hotels have no 4th floor. Fairmont has also removed some room numbers, like 666 and 1313, from various hotels because people often steal the room number signs.
Many hotels are considered to be haunted. One such story involves the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, which was named after Louis de Buade, Conte de Frontenac. When Baude died, he wanted his heart sent in a box to his fiancé in Europe but she was so sad she sent it right back to Quebec. Since then, it is believed that the Conte wanders the hotel looking for his beloved, according to Holland.
London's Heathrow Airport is alleged to be haunted by several spirits. Dick Turpin, a highwayman who was hanged in the 18th century, is often reported to be seen riding his black steed in the area around the airport. A man who died in the crash of a Belgian airliner in 1948 is seen running along the runway where he died, searching for his briefcase. And I'm always on the lookout for a harried and worried businessman in a grey suit who reportedly materializes at odd times in many of the airline lounges in the airport.
After the crash of American Airlines flight 191 near Chicago's O'Hare Airport in 1979, many residents claimed to see strange white lights emanating from the crash site. Dogs would bark endlessly at the field where the plane crashed. Nearby residents also reported strange figures rapping at their doors looking for lost luggage or saying they had to make a connection. These mysterious visitors often vanished into the darkness.
Perhaps the most bizarre travel-related apparition sightings came after the crash of Eastern Airlines flight 401 in the Everglades in 1972. Eastern salvaged many parts of the fallen L1011 aircraft and used them on other airplanes. Crew and passengers alike reported seeing the ghosts of Captain Bob Loft and flight engineer Dan Repo (both died of injuries in the crash) on airplanes with the salvaged parts
In one incident, Repo appeared to another captain and said "There will never be another crash" (of an Eastern L1011). "We will not let it happen." The stories of Eastern flight 401 were so pervasive that they became the subject of John G. Fuller's 1976 book "The Ghost of Flight 401", which was subsequently made into a television movie. The apparition sightings subsided after Eastern removed the salvaged parts from those airplanes.
Superstition is a touchy subject. Many airlines and hoteliers declined to comment on superstitious behavior by their companies. When I worked in the airline industry I was told travel actually dropped off on Friday the 13th, and even on the 13th of any month, but no one would substantiate that claim. Of course, who would admit to believing in superstitions? It's just not something adults in the modern, scientific world would admit. Happy Halloween!