The surprising reason why planes still have ashtrays

ashtrays on planes

If you’ve ever wondered why modern planes are built with ash trays even though smoking is illegal on flights, you’re not alone.

While it seems odd to have an ash tray in the bathroom where there are no-smoking signs plastered everywhere, it’s mandatory to have them for safety issues.

You see, there’s the odd cheeky passenger out there who thinks they won’t be caught having a quick dart in the dunny, despite the fact there are smoke detectors fitted throughout the plane, including in the toilets.

It’s required by law in some countries for planes to have ashtrays as a safety precaution so in case someone does have a cigarette, there is a safe place to dispose of it. There is of course a huge fire hazard for people smoking on flights, particularly if they are scrambling to find somewhere to put their cigarette out and happen to do so in the toilet bin full of highly flammable paper and tissues.

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One flight attendant commented on the issue in a Stack Exchange travel forum, stating their biggest concern is not the cigarette, but the smoke.

“Fire is on the top of the hazard list and we identify it by smoke and the scent,” they said. “We are trained to spot smoke, identify the source and to drop everything to handle it immediately.”

A spokesperson for Tigerair told Travel at 60 the airline has a zero tolerance for smoking onboard, with federal laws banning smoking on all domestic flights. 

“Our crew are well trained to ensure passengers comply with all regulations while on board our aircraft,” they said. “Standard policy for any breach of the non-smoking policy is to refer the matter to the AFP [Australian Federal Police].”

They were unable to comment on how prevalent it was for people to be caught smoking on flights in recent years.

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Australia was the first country to ban smoking on all domestic flights in 1987, but hesitated to extend the ban to international flights as the Hawke Government was concerned this would be disadvantageous for the Australian economy at the time.

According to the Air Navigation (Smoking) Amendment Act 1987, the penalty for smoking in an aircraft is $5,000 or imprisonment for six months.

In 2015, it was reported that a man on a Jetstar flight from the Gold Coast to Sydney received an $850 fine after being caught smoking in-flight, despite the fact the cost of diverting the flight’s path cost the airline $20,000.

While some countries allowed smoking on flights into the 2000’s, smoking flights are virtually non-existent today as even if the airline allows it, the airspace laws of other countries may forbid it.

Ecigarettes or electronic cigarettes are allowed on flights within Australia as long as they are carried in the cabin with passengers.

Do you remember when smoking was allowed on flights? Let us know in the comments below. 

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