Thought Leadership

Row 13 – unlucky for some?

By Colin Walls

I am not a superstitious person. As I have a strong interest and faith in science, I believe that there is a rational explanation for everything. In some cases, we might not have mastered the necessary science, but we will get there. After all, to anyone from, say, the 19th Century, much of our everyday technology today would appear to be magic. I do like an interesting coincidence, but these can commonly be explained by the 6 degrees of separation.

However, occasionally odd things do happen …

A few weeks ago, a group of four of us went on a short vacation. I was designated tour leader and took care of the airline bookings etc. On the day before we departed, I checked in online, as I normally do. We were allocated a complete row of seats across the plane [it was a small plane with a 2+2 seat configuration]. I printed out the boarding passes and we set off, breezing through the airport in a relaxed fashion and completed our travel to Lyon in France very satisfactorily.

On the way home, it was slightly different. For some reason, unknown to me, the airline did not permit online check in for departures out of Lyon. This was not really a problem. We showed up at the airport in good time and went to check in with a real human being the old fashioned way. After a little discussion about the weight of carry on baggage, I found myself clutching four boarding passes and we headed for Security.

Looking at the boarding passes, I observed that we had once again been allocated a complete row – Row 13. I joked that this was quite European. In the US, planes never have a Row 13 and buildings often lack a 13th floor. But we are not so superstitious on this side of The Pond. After all, I take the view that, if something bad happens to Row 13, it will probably be just as much a problem to Rows 12 and 14 and more besides.

We boarded the plane, with me leading the way. We used the front door, so I made my way along: Row 10, Row 11, Row 12, Row 14 … There was no Row 13! The cabin crew were completely mystified, as, apparently, none of their planes have a Row 13. Fortunately, the plane was not quite full and we could easily be seated elsewhere. Clearly there was a problem with their booking systems, but it is very hard to imagine how this could happen just once.

I did wonder if we had actually boarded a plane to Hogwarts and should actually have been in Row 12¾ …

Leave a Reply

This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at