Real Madrid will have to break one particular Champions League superstition in the run-up to their final clash with Liverpool, El Mundo has revealed: Los Blancos have been denied the services of their lucky flight crew on their journey to Kiev.
Same crew for past three Champions League finals
The holders, winners of three of the tournament's past four editions, were flown to Lisbon, Milan and Cardiff for their successful final appearances in 2014, 2016 and 2017, respectively, on aeroplanes managed by the same crew: captain Juan Ramón Bonet, first officer Alejandro Buxonat and cabin manager Rosa Delia Sosa.
But Real have been forced to abandon the tradition this year due to the size of their plane. "This year, the trip to Kiev will be made in an Airbus A340, which has a broader fuselage, to enable as smooth as possible a journey to Ukraine and to cater for the number of seats that the club has asked for," the airline Iberia, which operates the LaLiga giants' Champions League final flights, said.
"The crew that has on previous occasions been responsible for their flights to closer destinations are not qualified to work with this type of aeroplane. They fly the Airbus A321, which is smaller (it is a 200-seater aircraft) and has less autonomy. As is required by the [Spanish] State Agency for Air Safety, they would have to take a three-month course [to gain the necessary credentials], which they haven't."
Real Madrid's flight to Kiev on Thursday will therefore be piloted by captain Txomin Baztan and first officer José María Ordovás, with chief attendant Manuel Díaz Pachón taking over from Sosa in looking after the squad, their families, the board and the club's special guests during the four-hour trip to Ukraine.
New flight crew "crossing our fingers we won't jinx Real"
The new crew are "crossing our fingers that we won't jinx [Real Madrid]" in the final, Baztan told El Mundo. "Hopefully, we can bring them good luck like Bonet did. Otherwise, my kids, who are Real fans, will be mad at me."
Superstitious Pérez could get lucky crew on board anyway
However, Real Madrid's president, Florentino Pérez, could look to get Bonet, Buxonat and Sosa on board anyway. "Knowing the president, he's sure to invite them to the final as guests of the club," a Real official is quoted as saying by the newspaper. "He's very superstitious. It's a shame that Bonet can't pilot the plane again, but this year we needed a bigger aircraft because it's a longer flight and we needed wider seats so that the players can be that bit more comfortable."