Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Why the “No-Smoking” Sign is Still Used by Airline Companies

During my last several flights I was reminded by an unanswered query which had been on my mind for quite some time. Isn’t it understood by now that all flights are non-smoking, so why do planes still have the non-smoking sign next to the fasten-seat-belt one as well as on the boarding pass?

I kept brushing the thought off until that last trip from Los Angeles to Cairo when I saw the sign on the plane and on the featured boarding pass, and once again recalled the matter. 

So I consulted Google. To my convenience, I found that the questions and the possible answers were right there in articles and forums.

The first restrictions on smoking aboard commercial aircraft in the US began in 1973 by the Civil Aeronautics Board. The current statute was enacted in 1989 and significantly upgraded in 2000, which ended with a Civil Law banning smoking in the same year. For the UK, it was the mid 90s when the smoking ban was introduced. Other nations then followed suit.

However, up until 2010, Air Algeria, Cubana, Iran Air, Garuda still allowed smoking on their planes.

That said, the lifespan of commercial airlines is long, and most planes still in service today were designed and certified in the 80s when they still had smoking and non-smoking sections. Changing anything on a plane would require a detailed approval process, so the companies probably thought it’s not worth it. That's of course besides the expenses.
In newer airplanes, apparently, the sign has been re-purposed with “Please turn off electronic devices”, which remains on when the plane is below 10,000 feet.

On a related note, the same could be said about ashtrays that are still found in all airplane bathrooms and in-between the seats in some others. But it appears that
since it involves safety, the issue here is more serious than the sign.

The continuing problems that airlines have with people who ignore the 'no smoking' signs that are liberally scattered throughout the cabins. As planes have come down in the past due to people stubbing out their cigarette in a bin of paper towels, the thinking is it's better to have something in place on the chance that someone breaks the rules. The alternative— not having ashtrays —risks the safety of the whole plane.

So until today, it is required by law
to have ashtrays outside the bathrooms. Though it is still common to also find them inside, as well as in-between the seats in older models.

Google did answer my question concerning the sign on the plane. However, it didn’t really answer why there is a printed “non-smoker” on the boarding pass. Actually I didn't have a choice between smoking or non-smoking as I was making the reservation. But I don’t think changing this would require a detailed process, since it’s just a printing thing.

So I Googled even more.

Apart from stopping those
who ignore the rules, the only slightly convincing reason I found on Reddit as to why some boarding passes still have a “no-smoking” option’ is the following:

Some airlines still permit smoking, though these are almost all domestic airlines in countries in Africa and the Middle East. Since it is possible that reaching your final destination may involve a leg on one of these flights, it is still possible that, even when checking in at a US airport, a smoking option will be available to you at some point and needs to be allowed for on the boarding passes that are printed out when you first check in.

Well, you live you learn. So the next time you travel and see any of those signs don't be startled. Just remember that some things take decades to change.


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