Passenger who threw ‘lucky coins’ into plane engine in Shanghai won’t be charged

Flight was delayed for over five hours after elderly woman was seen ‘praying for safety’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 5:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 11:27pm

Shanghai police have decided not to take action against an elderly passenger who threw coins into an aircraft engine to “pray for safety”, causing a flight to be delayed for over five hours.

The China Southern Airlines flight was held at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport on Tuesday after the 80-year-old woman, identified by her surname Qiu, was seen tossing coins into the engine during boarding, local media reported.

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Plane mechanics later found nine coins – worth a total of 1.7 yuan (25 US cents) – at the site, including one inside the engine.

The woman later told police she threw the coins as a prayer for her safety, the Xinmin Evening News reported. Qiu’s neighbour said the woman was a Buddhist, according to police.

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But police decided not to take action against Qiu, who had no criminal record, after taking into account her age and the fact she hadn’t intended to cause any harm.

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Under Chinese law, a charge of “disturbing work order” could result in five to 10 days of detention and a fine of up to 500 yuan. But if Qiu’s actions had led to “serious harm”, the woman could have faced criminal charges punishable with a lengthy jail term or even the death penalty.

The flight was due to leave Shanghai for Guangzhou at 12.40pm. About 150 passengers had to disembark while crew ensured the aircraft was safe and it eventually took off after 6pm, about five hours late.

A senior crew member told local media that it was lucky other passengers had seen Qiu throwing the coins and reported it – and that all of those coins were recovered.

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“If no one had reported that someone was throwing coins into the engine, the result would have been unthinkable,” he was quoted as saying, adding that lives could have been lost if the engine had failed while the plane was in the air.

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Another crew member said the incident would have been costly for the airline, estimating losses at some 8,000 yuan for every hour the plane was delayed – putting the total in the region of 1 million yuan.

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The woman’s “lucky coins” were met with scorn, derision and amusement online. Some wondered why Qiu’s companions – her husband, daughter and daughter-in-law – didn’t try to stop her, or say something.

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“The old woman may have been confused, but what about her family?” one commenter wrote.

Others joked that Qiu perhaps thought the engine was a jukebox, or believed that the coins would help to start the engine.

“Throwing coins into the engine – was [she] praying for safety or for danger?” another asked.

The custom of visiting temples and monasteries to make a wish using incense and money has in recent times expanded, and many Chinese now throw coins for good luck.

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Coins are tossed into vessels at temples, into shopping mall fountains, lakes, aquarium tanks for tortoises – one middle school in Fujian province even had a toilet designated as a “wish-making pond” by its students, which apparently got a lot of use around exam time.