Unlucky Gate 13

Map of the United states. Airports with a gate 13 are plotted as green dots. Airports without a gate 13 are plotted as red dots. Airports with all gates below or above 13 are plotted as gray dots.

A year or so ago, I was traveling through Portland, Maine, and noticed the airport had some ground-level gates numbered 11, 12, and 14. Gate 13 was missing.

In retrospect, this shouldn’t have surprised me. Thirteen is considered to be an unlucky number, and many buildings skip their thirteenth floor, but I’d never thought about an airport skipping its thirteenth gate. I started to pay attention, and noticed that many other airports passed over gate 13 as well.

I finally went ahead and researched the gates in every one of the 396 U.S. primary commercial service airports (airports with at least 10000 passenger boardings in 2018) and made a map, split into three categories:

Green: Airports with a gate numbered 13.

Red: Airports without any gates numbered 13.

Gray: Airports whose range of gates doesn’t include 13, so 13 isn’t being skipped. Usually this is because the airport has fewer than 13 gates per concourse, but some airports started their gate numbers higher than 13 as well.

Larger dots on the map represent larger airports.

Interesting Finds

  • There didn’t appear to be any large geographic trends in which cities were more worried about the number 13; the northeast seemed to have a slightly higher ratio of airports skipping 13 to having it, but not by any substantial amount.
  • The smallest airport that has a gate 13 is Flint, Michigan (FNT). The largest airport that skips gate 13 is Denver (DEN).
  • Las Vegas (LAS) did not have a gate 13 in any of its concourses. Since it’s a city known for gambling, I’m not surprised that it would avoid unlucky numbers.
  • A lot of larger airports had gate 13 in some concourses and skipped it in others (BOS and ORD were notable examples). I wonder if there’s some correlation between skipping gate 13 and the year each concourse was built.
  • Some airports skip gate 13, but still have baggage claim 13 (IAD did this). Maybe people aren’t worried about bad luck once they’re off the plane and done with flying for the day.

How I Made the Map

I’ve written up how I made the map on my portfolio website:


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