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So, This Is How China Keeps Its Planes Running On Time

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As CNN's Jessica Beaton reported in January, statistics from the Civil Aviation Administration of China revealed that "Chinese airline punctuality last  year dropped to below 81 percent for the first time since 2005."

Apparently, the poor on-time performance had mainly to do with two factors:

1) An increased passenger load, up 22% year-over-year

2) Less than 30% of Chinese airspace is open to civil aviation, with 70% set aside for military use

According to Beaton, China's Minister of Transport, Li Shenglin, is hoping to achieve an "80 percent punctuality rate in the next five years."

Now, see China Southern Airlines? Right there, stuck firmly in the middle of the pack at 76.83%?

Well, here's what the good men and women of the Southern Chinese skies are doing to make Minister Li's dream a reality:

That's a China Southern flight attendant in the galley, pre-flight, praying for no delays.

Jing 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 '??,' or, 'zheng dian,' the Chinese characters for 'on time,' take a solemn bow with three sticks of incense in their hand, and murmur to themselves, 'Please let the flight arrive on time.'"

Jing says "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 heels,'" Jing continues. Evidently, flight crews also "worship" a brand of fruit juice called Bi-Lin, "which in Chinese is the homonym for '??,' or 'certainly effective,' hoping that their prayers will be answered."

Why are Chinese air crews so concerned about being prompt?

Jing claims that in February, after being denied an upgrade to business class, two "Platinum Level" passengers aboard an Air China flight from Ningbo claimed to to be too sick to fly, thus preventing the plane from taking off. When the aircraft was finally ready to depart again, a heavy fog had rolled in, causing the flight to be canceled, causing...this:

The man in the white shirt was dragged from a shuttle bus back to the terminal by angry fellow fliers, who were chanting "F**k your mother" at him and his female traveling companion.

She exited the bus "begging for mercy," as the crowd shouted "Apologize! Apologize!"

So, perhaps Chinese flight attendants are simply concerned about passenger safety in the face of angry mobs upset about being late.

Or, maybe not being compensated for extra hours worked due to delays has something to do with it.

Says one professor from the Civil Aviation University of China, “This may be the reason why flight attendants worship fruit juices and wish for on-schedule flights."

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