Wednesday, December 26, 2018

On a wing — and a blessing

Planes are revolutionising the way we travel. They take us across continents in hours and some even travel at speeds faster than sound.

But airline operators across the world — from Hawaiian Air in the US to Air India and Vistara Airlines in India to Thai Airways International in Thailand and Druk Air in neighbouring Bhutan — make sure that these sleek machines are blessed by the divine before they are inducted into their fleets.

“Prior to launching any new planes into service, we invite a kahu (Hawaiian for reverend) to conduct a traditional Hawaiian blessing at the front entrance of the aircraft,” a senior official of Hawaiian Airlines tells BusinessLine in an email interview. In addition to the traditional blessing, each aircraft in Hawaiian Airlines’ fleet is given a unique and special name as well.

The Thai Airways’ website too is full of photographs of monks blessing the nose of aircraft which one assumes are new ones being inducted into its fleet (the airline did not respond to questions). In a statement issued last year when its 51st aircraft joined the fleet, Thai AirAsia had said that it invited an abbot who anointed both the front exterior and cabin of the aircraft for its good fortune. Thai staff members and their families were invited to be part of the ceremony.
In India too, many airlines follow the practice of doing a puja when an aircraft enters service.

Air India has a simple puja at the airport with generally the Chairman and Managing Director or Director, Finance or Engineering, performing it. “A coconut is broken in front of the plane and prasad distributed amongst the people present,” says a senior former Air India official.

Earlier, Vijay Mallya, the promoter of the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines, insisted that any aircraft joining the fleet first had to fly to Tirupati where a special puja was performed before it entered commercial service. And a spokesperson of Vistara confirms that the airline performs ceremonious rites under the nose of the aircraft every time a new aircraft enters its fleet. Incidentally, KLM, the Royal Dutch airline, also broke a coconut at Delhi and Mumbai airports when its Boeing 787 Dreamliner landed in India, to herald the launch of the service with this new variety of aircraft.
25/12/18 Ashwini Phadnis/Business Line
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