China Southern Airlines Flight 380 from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Guangzhou in China’s southern Guangdong province was delayed for five hours on Monday after an elderly passenger threw coins into the plane’s engine during the boarding process to ensure “good luck”, according to reports from mainland China.
While the airline has confirmed on its official WeChat account that a “disruption” occurred during the boarding process leading to the delay, passengers boarding the flight reported on social media and spoke to media on the ground in Shanghai, stating that an elderly woman threw coins into the engine for “blessings” from the middle of the boarding stairs. Passengers then alerted the crew, which called police and a maintenance team. The woman was reportedly around 80 years old, had limited mobility, and was accompanied by her husband, daughter and son-in-law. She was taken away for questioning by police before takeoff.
The captain of the flight was quoted as saying that the metal thrown in the engine could have caused serious damage on the ground or in flight, including engine failure. Maintenance crews reportedly found nine coins in the engine, with a reported value of 1.7 yuan, or around 25 cents USD.
Police in Shanghai released a statement, saying that “After an investigation, the involved passenger, surnamed Qiu, said she threw the coins to pray for safety. According to Qiu’s neighbour, Qiu believes in Buddhism.”
The flight, operated by an Airbus A320-200, was scheduled to depart around 12:20pm local time, however did not end up departing until 5:52pm local time, according to FlightAware, and arrived five and a half hours late in Guangzhou.
Travelers from China have been in the media for causing multiple aviation safety incidents in recent times, including assaulting employees in airports and on planes, opening emergency doors, and other unruly behavior. Chinese authorities have attempted to curb this through media campaigns and the creation of a black list of passengers, with those on the list banned from travelling by air.