An 80-year-old woman who threw coins at the engine of a plane at Pudong airport will be exempted from punishment police said yesterday.
She had broken China's public security administration punishment law, airport police said, and would normally have served five days in detention. But the law allowed an exemption on detentions for people aged over 70.
The passenger, a woman surnamed Qiu, delayed a China Southern Airlines from Shanghai to Guangzhou by over five hours on Tuesday.
A passenger following behind her alerted the crew after seeing her throw the coins.
"Since Qiu is 80 years old and didn't deliberately damage the plane or cause any severe outcome, she will face no police action," the police authority with Pudong International Airport said.
Qiu, a Buddhist who often tosses coins to wish good luck, has no criminal record and is not considered to be suffering from a mental illness, according to the police investigation.
She told police she threw the coins to wish for a safe flight. The nine coins she tossed toward the plane had a total value of 1.70 yuan (25 US cents). They included a 1-jiao coin that landed in the engine. It was found during a five-hour inspection.
The Airbus 320 aircraft landed safely in Guangzhou at 8:11pm, nearly 6 hours after it was due.
If Qiu had caused damage to the plane, she could have faced a death sentence or at least 10 years behind bars, according the nation's criminal law.
A single A320 engine costs about US$1.1 million.
Some airlines such as Shenzhen Airlines dispatch staff to stand beside the aircraft engine, or use sealed ladders to take passengers onto the aircraft to prevent similar incidents.