Planes, hotels and the number 13



AirFrance, Iberia, Ryanair, AirTran, Continental, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, and Alaska Airlines (but only on their Boeing 737-800′s) do not have a row 13.

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.

Continental about the 13th row 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 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? And does it bother you that there is still a 13th row – it may just not be numbered as such?


The levels of a multi-story building are numbered sequentially, from “one” or “ground” upwards. In some countries, the number 13 is considered unlucky and building owners will sometimes purposely omit the thirteenth floor. Even landlords who are not themselves superstitious realize that the rentability of suites on the 13th floor might be compromised because of superstitious tenants, or tenants who are afraid their own customers might be superstitious.

Simply being skipped

Most commonly, it is skipped altogether. Although the thirteenth floor has been skipped in terms of numbering (i.e., for hotel/apartment/suite numbers), the floor numbered 14 is technically the thirteenth floor of the building; it is simply not numbered as such. Any calculations involving the height of a building based on the height of a floor should take this into account (particularly in reference to BASE jumping).


Sometimes the floor is simply renumbered as 12a; this does not affect the numbers of the higher floors.

Special designations

Other buildings will often use names for certain floors to avoid giving a floor on the building the 13th floor designation. One such example is the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the 13th floor is called the Pool floor.

Not inhabited

Sometimes, the floor is put to some other use (see also conspiracy theories, below). For instance, the thirteenth floor of One Canada Square houses the air conditioning equipment and no rentable offices, though the owners insist that this is merely an architectural coincidence.


Similarly, new buildings in some parts of China omit the fourth, fourteenth, twenty-fourth, etc. floors, as the word “four” (Hanzi: 四) sounds like “death” (死 – both are pronounced “sì” and “sǐ”, respectively) in Mandarin, the predominant dialect for the country, and most other Chinese dialects. A small number of buildings also follow the Western tradition of omitting the thirteenth floor, with the fifteenth floor immediately following the twelfth.

Although the Hanja for four and death are read identically in Korean, buildings in South Korea tend not to omit the fourth floor. However, newer buildings tend to label the fourth floor with the letter F, instead of the number 4.

Conspiracy theory

Some conspiracy theorists have suggested that the thirteenth floor in government buildings is not really missing, but actually contains top-secret governmental departments, or more generally that it is proof of something sinister or clandestine going on. This implication is often carried over, implicitly or explicitly, into popular culture; for example, in the films The Thirteenth Floor, the hidden research and development labs of Network 23 in the television program ‘Max Headroom’, and the computer game Floor 13 by Virgin Interactive. In the sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf “floor 13” referred to a secret brig which was several decks high.

It should be noted that to place a floor between those accessible from an elevator, it is necessary to either take longer to travel between the neighboring floors, or accelerate, both of which would be noticed by the riders.

I found this quite interesting because in all cases there IS a 13 – it is just not numbered as such. So if you are superstitious does the absence of the number make it less unlucky?

I have a student whose father survived a serious heart attack on Friday 13th and instead of blaming the day for the event, she considers Friday 13th a happy and lucky occasion for their family!

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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