Here’s Why Aircraft Don’t Have A Row 13

Frequent Ryanair travellers may have noticed the absence of row 13 on Ryanair flights. It’s not just a mistake, there is no row 13 on any Ryanair aircraft for a reason. It’s the same reason you also won’t find a row 17 on Lufthansa flights.

A Ryanair Boeing 737
Ryanair is one of a handful of airlines that don’t have a row 13. Photo: North West Transport Photos via Flickr

There’s something about flying which brings out superstition, even in people who aren’t usually all that superstitious. It’s probably the feeling of a complete lack of control once you’ve strapped into your seat and the engines begin to throttle up.

As soon as you start to hurtle down the runway, you realize just how little control you have over your fate for the next few hours.

Superstition comes in many different forms, one of the most common is superstition about numbers. Some cultures see certain numbers as lucky. China with the number 8 and the US with the number 7, for example.

On the other hand, the number 13 is considered an unlucky number in western culture. It has given rise to the concept of Friday the 13th, and is omitted from many aspects of everyday life for the sake of avoiding bad luck.

In motorsports, in particular, the number 13 was avoided like the plague for many years. The number 13 was not used in the Indianapolis 500 between 1915 and 2002 and Formula 1 between 1977 and 2013.

Just as the number 13 was avoided in motorsports for so many years, certain airlines also avoid the number when it comes to seat numbering. These include Air France, Iberia and Lufthansa.

Which other numbers do not appear on certain airlines?

The number 13 isn’t the only number omitted from seating plans on some carriers due to superstition. The number 17 is considered bad luck in Italy and Brazil and, as a result, Lufthansa includes neither row 13 or row 17 on its aircraft.

A Lufthansa aircraft without row 13
Lufthansa aircraft have two missing seat numbers. Photo: Schutz via Wikimedia Commons

Another omission is the number 14 from United Airlines Polaris seating plans. This is due to a superstition around the number in China, which sounds similar to “is dead” in Mandarin.

According to Escape AU, Cathay Pacific has also removed row number four from its seating plans due to the fact the word four sounds like “death”.

How do airlines choose which numbers to omit?

Considering how many separate cultures there are around the world, almost all numbers are probably unlucky somewhere.

If airlines were to take this into account and get rid of all row numbers which someone, somewhere considers unlucky, the situation could get a bit ridiculous.

Instead, airlines prioritize which unlucky numbers to get rid of based upon their most common destinations, as well as who flies with them most often.

A Lufthansa Airbus A340
Italian and Brazilian passengers may be thankful for Lufthansa’s decision to remove row 17. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

Lufthansa is unusual in its omission of row number 17. The number is considered unlucky in Italy and Brazil, but Lufthansa is by no means the only carrier that serves these countries.

On its website, Lufthansa explains the reasoning behind its decision to get rid of row number 17:

“In some countries, for example, Italy and Brazil, the typical unlucky number is 17 and not 13. Seeing as Lufthansa welcomes a lot of international passengers we try to consider as many of these specific cultural beliefs as possible. That way, all Lufthansa passengers can enjoy a pleasant flight!”