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Why airplanes don’t have a 13th row

Dec. 13, 2019
4 min read
Why airplanes don’t have a 13th row
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Airline passengers are a superstitious bunch. Many travelers partake in certain superstitious rituals when flying, particularly when boarding and upon takeoff. You may have noticed someone touching the aircraft upon boarding or making a hand gesture that resembles the sign of a cross. Maybe you have a lucky sweater or would never flying on an alleged unlucky day like Friday the 13th. Superstition comes in many forms.

United Airlines flight showing no row 13. Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.
United Airlines flight showing no row 13. Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

Around the globe, flyers are filled with quirky superstitions (like the guy that tossed coins into the plane engine for good luck) that alter the way they travel - using self-coping mechanisms that provide them with a little peace of mind. Airlines around the world are cognizant of these superstitions and because of this, several do not have a 13th row on their planes due to the stigma around the luckless number 13. Airlines including Air France, Iberia, Ryanair, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, and Alaska Airlines (only their Boeing 737-800) are not equipped with a 13th row on most of their aircraft.

Alaska Airlines 737-800 without a 13th row (Image courtesy of SeatGuru).

In Lufthansa's case, not only do their planes omit Row 13 in many instances, they also exclude a Row 17 as the number denotes a strain of bad luck in countries such as Italy and Brazil. This is the airline's way of respecting the cultural beliefs of their millions of international passengers they serve and reducing passenger anxiety while flying.

No Row 13 or Row 17 on Lufthansa's A320neo aircraft (Image courtesy of Juan Ruiz).
Missing Rows 13 and 17 on Lufthansa's A320neo aircraft (Image courtesy of Juan Ruiz/ExpertFlyer).

There are dozens of airlines based in Europe and Asia that purposefully snub the 13th row from their fleet of aircrafts. U.S.-based airlines such as American, Delta, Southwest and Jetblue to name a few, do in fact have a Row 13 despite a resounding belief in western culture that the number implies bad luck.

But travel superstition isn't simply earmarked for planes - hotels and buildings also bypass a 13th floor. While it may sound a bit extreme to cater to superstitious minds, Gallup conducted a poll in 2007 asking Americans how much it would bother them to stay on a 13th floor room. 13% said it would bother them to stay on a 13th floor hotel room. The reason many hotels do not list the number 13 inside elevators is to avoid issues with guests that suffer from triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13.

In China and other East Asian cultures, whether a number is considered unlucky or not depends on the pronunciation of that number and if other similar-sounding words carry a positive or negative meaning. The number 4 is considered to be unlucky in countries such as China, Japan, Taiwan as well as others because the word for the number 4 sounds the same as the word for death. Step foot inside an elevator in many Asian countries and you may not see a button for the 4th floor.

If you're lucky (or unlucky) enough to sit in the 13th row on your next flight, may the odds be ever in your favor for at least an empty middle seat.

Here at TPG, our elevators don't have a 13th floor, so we're hoping that means our new headquarters brings luck.. or at least no bad luck.

Elevator signage in The Points Guy elevators in New York - note no 13th floor. Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy
Elevator signage in The Points Guy elevators in New York - note no 13th floor. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy).

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