A wing and a prayer: Chinese airline staff pictured praying for punctual flight

Photo of airline flight attendants kneeling before food-trolley altar goes viral

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 July, 2013, 5:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2013, 9:53am

A photo of two flight attendants praying for their plane to take off on time has gone viral online, after recent reports revealed the extent of the mainland's notorious flight delays.

In the photo, the flight attendants are seen in an aircraft cabin kneeling in front of a food trolley that appears to be arranged as a makeshift altar. A poster with the words "be on time" written on it is placed on the trolley, surrounded by food and fruit.

It is traditional in Chinese culture to pray for good fortune to gods or ancestors, with food and lit incense sticks as offerings, at home or in temples.

The post came after a recent survey by a US-based airport statistics tracker found that Beijing and Shanghai airports had the worst records for on-time departures and arrivals among dozens of major international airports.

Last Tuesday, 233 flights were cancelled at Beijing Capital International Airport and 1,126 flights were delayed by more than four hours, said the global tracker, FlightStats.

The photo of the praying flight attendants struck a chord with Chinese internet users, with many expressing sympathy.

"Even flight attendants want to get off from work earlier," one internet user commented on microblog, Sina Weibo.

"Understandable, flight delays are truly annoying," said another blogger.

The two flight attendants in the picture appear to be wearing uniforms of Xiamen Airlines, a regional carrier partially owned by China Southern Airlines.

Officials at Xiamen Airlines declined to comment on the authenticity of the picture, but said it was not a violation of company regulations for flight attendants to pray in cabins, said Haixi Morning News, a newspaper based in Xiamen .

The paper also said Xiamen flight attendants were not alone in seeking help from a higher power to improve their on-time records. Crew members from several other carriers, including China Eastern Airlines, have also been photographed in recent years bowing in front of makeshift "on-time" altars, sometimes made of juice or food boxes.