Cabin crew worship cartoned fruit juice, praying for flights to be on time

October 4, 2011Jing Gao2 Comments, , , , , , , ,

From Sina

Chinese flight attendants are quite religious these days. The practice of their belief, however, comes across as funny, even though they cannot be more serious and pious about their prayer.

They stack orange juice cartons on a table in the pantry on board to form “正点zheng dian,” the Chinese characters for “on time,” take a solemn bow, with three sticks of incenses in their hand, and murmur to themselves, “Please let the flight arrive on time.”


The photo, because of its comical effect, has become viral on China’s Internet. Later, it is found that the cabin crew in the photo are from China Southern Airlines.

But China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines have the same superstition. A flight attendant from China Eastern even said that they occasionally worship peach juice, as “peach juice” in Chinese is tao zhi, which sounds the same as the first two words of the idiom “tao zhi yao yao,” or “take to one’s heals.” Besides, they worship a fruit juices brand-name “Bi Lin,” which in Chinese is the homonym for “必灵,” or “certainly effective,” hoping that their prayers will be answered.

The person in charge of flight operations at China Southern Airlines said that their cabin crew’s worshipping and posting pictures online is personal behavior and did not make more comment.

As air traffic volume soars in step with the Chinese economy, flyers in China are experiencing more and more flight delays. In 2010, only 75.8 percent of all flights with the main Chinese airlines are on time, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the authority that oversees the nation’s skies.

The CAAC said in a report earlier this year that 41.1 percent of all the delays that affected major carriers last year were caused by the airlines themselves. This is partly due to the fact that the nation’s leading carriers are all state-run, and do not worry about competition for customers and market and making a profit.

Besides, military drills can cause sudden flight disruptions, rerouting airplanes in the sky to other airports or simply making them hover around. So can bad equipment. Cancellations sometimes happen at the last minute and for no obvious reason. The lame and one-size-fits-all excuse is “air traffic control issues,” which easily gets the airlines off the hook, and leaves passengers no one to turn to.

In a country with strict political hierarchy, airlines often stick to a state principle called, “let cadres fly first.” In May, passengers at the airport of the city of Ningbo went ballistic when they learned that their flight, along with several others that had been delayed, had to make way for a flight carrying an official. The airport and the airline were unapologetic about guaranteeing quality services for officials and putting non-officials on the back burner.

However, cabin crew and airlines staff were often stuck in the middle on each similar occasion.  They are at the forefront of any battle waged by angry passengers, and bear the brunt of the blame. However, according to policies adopted by most airlines, cabin crew will not be compensated for any overtime work brought  by flight delay. Delayed flight means extra workload and burden to them, “This may be the reason why flight attendants worship fruit juices and wish for on-schedule flights,” said Luo Jun, associate professor at the Civil Aviation University of China.

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2 comments to “Cabin crew worship cartoned fruit juice, praying for flights to be on time”

  1. [...] Gao of China blog Ministry of Tofu explains that flight crews will “stack orange juice cartons on a table in the pantry on board to form [...]

  2. Cecilie | February 22, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    How can it work when they write “點” in simplified character? If you want to be superstitious you have to follow the real traditions…

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