Man Tries Novel Legal Defense After Throwing Coins At Aircraft Engine For Good Luck

Two years ago an 80-year-old woman caused a six hour delay of a China Southern aircraft departing Shanghai by tossing nine coins at the engine while boarding. Since she was 80 and genuinely seemed to believe her Buddhism instructed that this was necessary to ensure her safety enroute to Guangzhou authorities didn’t press charges.

A few months later a passenger on China’s Lucky Air grounded a plane by tossing a coin into the engine. A 76 year old woman was taken into custody and the aircraft was grounded for further inspection.


Lucky Air Airbus A319-112 B-6221 by byeangel from Tsingtao, China via Wikimedia Commons

You might think “but planes aren’t wishing wells.” There are 1.4 billion people in China. Flying is new for many of them as the country rapidly develops. Flying in the U.S. often brings about a clash of cultures. So too in China where people bring their own paradigms to the experience – like the need for ritual to ensure luck and safety.

Last year when a man boarded Lucky Air (again!) on a Chinese domestic flight he tossed two coins towards the engine for luck. The flight was cancelled and the aircraft inspected. This time Lucky Air sued, and pressed charges. He was detained for 10 days.

The man has now been ordered to pay $17,200 to reimburse Lucky Air its costs from the incident. The court ruling came out in July – six months after the incident – but it took another six months for the ruling to be published.

What’s interesting was the defense.

  • The man was represented in court by his brother
  • They argued that Lucky Air’s maintenance costs are too high, it shouldn’t be so expensive to deal with coins thrown at an engine
  • Lucky Air really should have made an announcement before the flight not to throw coins at the engine.

As crazy as that might sound, China’s Sanya airport actually did “put up a notice in June [later taken down] warning passengers not to throw coins at planes.” It said that not only is tossing coins at aircraft engines illegal but it “would actually harm prayers for protection.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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