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ROW 13: Why some airlines have it and others do not

Virgin America has a 13th Row, I even sat in it and it was ok. Photo from AirlineReporter.com

Virgin America has a 13th Row, I even sat in it and it was ok. Photo from AirlineReporter.com

Happy Friday the 13th everyone! While you are watching out for black cats and ladders today, you might want to avoid sitting in row 13. Some airlines make it easier for you to avoid.

Many years ago I would fly Reno Air quite a bit between Seattle, WA and Reno, NV (it was bought by American Airlines in 1999).  During one of my flights I was in row 14. As normal I walked down the aisle counting up to find my seat: 10, 11, 12, 14. Where was row 13? I ended up asking a flight attendant and she stated it was a sign of bad luck and they didn’t want any of their passengers to feel unlucky before going to Reno. This made sense; the airline made their business off a city based on luck and they wouldn’t want anyone to perceive any bad luck on one of their flights.

More recently, when I flew on AirTran for their wi-fi announcement, I noticed they also didn’t have a 13th row. It got me thinking, are there that many superstitious  travelers afraid of the number 13?  I decided to push my luck and find out why some airlines do not have a 13th row.

Using my own experience, talking with people from the airlines, and using SeatGuru.com I found these airlines  do NOT have a 13th row:  AirFrance, Iberia, Ryanair, AirTran, Continental, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, and Alaska Airlines (but only on their Boeing 737-800′s).

I first spoke with Jennifer Janzen, Corporate Communications Manager with Lufthansa airlines and she explained to me that they also do not have a 17th row. Janzen informed me, “On board Lufthansa aircraft correspondingly the twelfth row is followed by the 14th. The attentive passenger, however, will also notice the absence of row 17. The reason is that in Italy and Brazil, 17 is regarded as unlucky.” On the other side, she pointed out that Lufthansa will use “Gate 13″ and has a flight number LF-013 that leaves Hamburg bound for Frankfurt daily.

USA Today asked Continental about the 13th row in 2005 and they stated, “Apparently someone a long time ago (we don’t know when) thought we shouldn’t have a row 13. 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.”

Judy Graham-Weaver, a spokesperson for AirTran told USA Today, “Most people wouldn’t want to sit there. Whether we believe in the superstition or not if it’s the perception of the community we need to go by that.”

Of course this makes sense. There are a lot of passengers who fear flying and the number “13″ doesn’t have the most positive thoughts attached to it. This explains why airlines have their entire fleets with or without a 13th row, but I wondered, why did Alaska Airlines have a 13th row in all planes except their Boeing 737-800′s?

Geoff Pettis, Manager of Interior Engineering with Alaska Airlines, cleared up my confusion by telling me the Boeing 737-800′s were not originally supposed to be their planes. “Alaska Airlines was already operating the 737-700 and 737-900 when the decision was made to start operating the 737-800s.  Due to cancellations by other airlines, Alaska was able to practically buy the first couple right off the assembly line.  However, this compressed time frame meant Alaska was not able to spec out [design] the cabin as would have normally happened.” To keep the layout consistent, they continued to order new 800′s without a 13th row, “but not because of any superstition.”

I also wanted to get an opinion from a seat expert or a seat guru, if you will. I spoke with Matt Daimler, Founder of Seatguru.com on what he thinks about the 13th row. “I believe the goal of airlines omitting it is to help reduce anxiety that flyers may have.” He did tell me he has two concerns with the 13th row. First, “The row that would have been marked 13 is rarely actually the 13th row of seats on the plane. This is because the airlines typically skip numbering as they move from First Class to Coach.” His second issue was, “The airlines that omit row 13 have flight numbers such as 113 and 213, which seem equally unlucky to me.” Daimler says he has no problem flying in the 13th row, “unless SeatGuru says it’s a red seat [bad seat to sit in] of course!.”

A simple question led to some interesting answers. Do any of you fear riding in the 13th row of an airplane? How about flying on Friday the 13th or from Gate 13?

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23 comments to ROW 13: Why some airlines have it and others do not

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