Despite surging passenger numbers, airlines in China are struggling with delays, pilot shortages and declining profits

The airline’s name was Lucky Air, but at least one passenger didn’t find this auspicious enough. In October, a 76-year-old woman boarding a flight in Anqing, Anhui province, decided to toss some coins into the jet’s engine as she boarded, in a misguided effort to ensure good fortune.

The flight was grounded for safety reasons, and passengers had to wait until the next morning for a rescheduled flight. It wasn’t the first time this type of behavior has occurred: Another pensioner in Shanghai threw coins into an engine in June, leading to further delays for passengers.

The incident was a literal demonstration of the multitudes of problems that can ground China’s flights—even the toss of a coin. As the industry strains under the weight of its own growth, profits and departure times are getting ever more fickle.

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David Dawson is the former deputy editor of The World of Chinese.

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