Hands on the Plane – Travel Superstition


Informant MW lived in America at the time of this collection. MW frequently travels to Zambia to work for her family’s ministry located there. Traveling to Zambia requires multiple flights. When speaking with MW, they shared with me a travel superstition that they learned from their parents.


The belief is that “you must touch the outside of the plane with your right hand or it will go wrong.”

As Christians, MW’s family regularly pray to God for protection and safe travels. Just as they were stepping into the plane to board, MW was raised to say a prayer of blessing and protection over the plane while touching its exterior with her right hand. Over time, MW explained how this belief became an almost enjoyable superstition. They told me how they would wait eagerly on the jet bridge until they could finally touch the plane.


After hearing about this belief, I have come to understand it as a way of self-identity and expression. MW identifies as a Chrisitan and believes that God hears their prayers and protects them. This travel superstition is an outward expression of identity that serves as a reflection of MW’s beliefs. In the Bible, there are several mentions of Jesus Christ’s powerful and healing touch. Additionally, the Bible mentions the right hand or the right side as being more righteous/holy than the left. I believe that it is likely that these mentions found in the Bible have contributed to crafting the belief in which MW’s family participates in.


Another version of similar travel superstitions can be found in the USC folklore archives. See here:

Wolf, Max, and Max Wolf. “University of Southern California.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, 20 May 2019, folklore.usc.edu/get-on-the-plane-with-your-right-foot-travel-superstition.