But on Tuesday, a China Southern Airlines flight was pushed back after an elderly woman was spotted throwing coins at the plane during the boarding process. One of the coins landed inside the engine, police said.
The 80-year-old woman, identified only by her last name, Qiu, said she had been tossing coins at the plane for good luck, according to Shanghai police.
Police detained the woman while maintenance crew members conducted a “comprehensive inspection” of the aircraft and its engine, China Southern Airlines said in its official account on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site similar to Twitter.
Local media outlets showed pictures of several investigators peering into an open engine and holding a handful of coins that had been retrieved from the area — including one from within the engine of the Airbus A320.
Police said the woman had no criminal record or history of mental illness, and had tossed the coins at the plane to “pray for a safe flight.” Police also said they would not jail the woman because of her age.
Nine coins were found in total, totaling about 25 U.S. cents. But ultimately the cost of the delay and of opening up the engine to check it could be more than $140,000, according to the Xinmin Evening News.
A senior flight mechanic told the news outlet that the crew members had been lucky, in a sense, that someone spotted the woman’s actions and alerted crew members before the flight took off.
“If nobody had reported someone throwing coins into the engine, the consequences could have been unthinkable,” he told Xinmin.
According to the airline, the flight to Guangzhou was originally scheduled to take off from Shanghai Pudong International Airport at 12:40 p.m. Tuesday. Instead, it took until nearly 5 p.m. to “overhaul” the engine, and the flight didn’t take off until just after 6 p.m.
The incident was met with a mix of outrage and amusement on Weibo.
“This should be considered a crime against public safety!” said one Weibo user.
“Grandma must have been strong,” another joked.