How to get the best seat on a plane
Ever spent 15 hours stuck in the middle seat in economy class? Then this guide's for you.
Yesterday the wings of the plane I was on didn't snap off… the engine didn't fall out, and the pilot didn't have a heart attack at the controls. My flight wasn't cancelled, or delayed; in fact, we arrived at our destination 10 minutes ahead of time. But unless hell freezes over – and in these days of rising temperatures, that's unlikely – you won't catch me flying on Friday the 13th again.
I don't "do" 13. I come from a long line of superstition sufferers (I once drove my 92-year-old grandmother to a pharmacy… a minute into the 30-minute trip she said she'd forgotten her prescriptions but wouldn't let me turn back, it's bad luck to break a journey apparently) so I change my entire travel schedule to avoid 13. When you travel for a living – as I've done for 18 years – avoiding "13" is a constant battle.
Emergency exit rows on Australia's domestic airlines are often located at Row 13. I'll still squeeze my 185-centimetre frame into a middle seat in Row 32 beside a screaming baby if check-in staff offer it to me (the one time I took it, I missed my overseas connection). I used to invent elaborate stories as to why I couldn't shift, but these days I just tell the truth.
Thirteen follows me around, I swear: for how many times can hotels squeeze it into their number sequence? I've given up suites, even a penthouse … because some heartless soul put them on the 13th floor.
Maybe that's why I love travelling in the US. There they understand. Many hotels don't have 13th floors – 13 per cent of USA Today readers said they wouldn't consider staying on a 13th floor. According to American-owned Otis Elevators, 85 per cent of lifts don't even have a 13th floor button.
It's not just America either: Lufthansa, Iberia, Ryanair and Air France don't have 13th rows. And The Daily Telegraph in Britain reports that airfares for July were cheapest by as much as 20 per cent on Friday the 13th (which was also the case in France, Austria and Sweden).
Apparently, there's even a name for my affliction: I'm a triskaidekaphobe. Next time I can tell airline staff and hotel receptionists what I have. Though it's not like the rest of you aren't a bit odd yourselves. British travel site, sunshine.co.uk, discovered 65 per cent of holiday-makers indulge in some sort of superstitious practice before boarding a plane.
The most common practice of all, they discovered, was touching the outside of the plane before boarding. What on earth is wrong with you?