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June 30, 2005 12:05 AM

Broken: Ashtrays on planes

AircashtrayAlexander Moseson writes:

I recently took a Delta Airlines trip on an Airbus A321. The cheesy video at the beginning of the flight said "No Smoking." The overhead lights said "No Smoking." Several other signs said "No Smoking."

Yet there are ashtrays located in the lavatory, and in the aisle above the trashcan, and probably other places, too, for your smoking convenience. I asked a flight attendant about this, and she explained that the ashtrays were left in place incase a smoker had a panic attack and needed to smoke while in flight.

[Note: Picture from an Air Canada flight, taken by a reader submitting a similar entry in 2006. -mh]


it is faa regulations IN THE US that dont let people smoke! Not so in some countrys.

Posted by: phil at June 30, 2005 12:36 AM

Go to and search under smoking.NOT BROKEN!!!

Posted by: phil at June 30, 2005 12:48 AM

Nah, i always thought it was just old aircrafts.

Posted by: alice at June 30, 2005 02:07 AM

you're kidding, right? first off, if it's a true panic attack they don't last long enough to smoke anything. second, if it is really panic, the person has very little in the way of consciousness during it and would not think about it. and thirdly, panic is not health risk, whereas cigarettes are.

Posted by: what hogwash. take a "break" w/o the cigarettes! at June 30, 2005 06:14 AM

What's broken is the attendent's response.

The reasons that ashtrays still exist on planes are:

1. Cheaper to install, then re-tool the assembly line

2. Not all planes are manufacturered for the airlines. There is such a thing as a privately or corporate owned airbus A321

3. Smoking is not banned everywhere in the world, but planes are sold everywhere.

What I find broken on planes is the razor blade disposal in the lav. When is the last time anyone used a safety razor for shaving? And, if they did, what are the odds they would be doing it in a moving airplane?

Posted by: hangupanddrive at June 30, 2005 08:59 AM

The chances are pretty low scince you can be arrested for trying to board with one in your carry-on luggage. At least in north america.

Posted by: Sean P at June 30, 2005 10:09 AM

Also don't forget that planes are sold on to other carriers. Many 3rd world airlines use 20 year old former US airline planes. Keeping the planes in standard configurations makes them easier to resell.

Posted by: Roger Binns at June 30, 2005 01:00 PM

I don't mean to unduly nitpick - which is, however, what I'm doing here - but Delta does not own any A321s. However, US Airways do own such aircraft.

As I understand it, aircraft cabins are outfitted according the customer's needs (which decides the location of lavatories, seat types and configuratios, etc.). But the lavatories and seats are made in bulk without knowing in what aircraft they will end up, i.e. not custom-made (except perhaps for the significantly more expensive First/Business Class seats). But I'm not saying it's not broken!

Posted by: Nicolas at June 30, 2005 01:15 PM

Remember when there were ashtrays on the seat armrests in planes? Those were broken too. I remember putting an armrest up and showering the unlucky passenger behind me in cigarette ash!

- The Precision Blogger

Posted by: Precision Blogger at June 30, 2005 01:18 PM

Ash trays are also useful for non-smokers who happen to be gum-chewers.

Posted by: fluffy at June 30, 2005 01:50 PM

well to the first reply, some panic attacks can last for hours

Posted by: buterflybaby555 at June 30, 2005 03:58 PM

••-~ - Hot damn! Remind me to book my next flight on Delta! I wonder if they offer extra miles for checked alien corpses.

Posted by: WGB Spender at June 30, 2005 07:11 PM

yeah, the FAA doesn't prohibit smoking cigarettes on airplanes, that's the airlines choice. Lighters are banned but I don't think matches are.

Posted by: Matt at June 30, 2005 07:24 PM

Yes, Nicolas is correct, Delta does not posess any A321 type aircraft. (They don't even own any of the A32X series)

Possibly you were on a codeshare with US or United?

I'm sure the flight attendant was wrong in her explaination. FAA regulations prohibit smoking on commercial aircraft.

I am quite suprised that you would find an ash tray on a 321, they are relatively new aircraft, and I can't explain why the customer would have ordered the ashtrays on their aircraft.

Posted by: Kevin at June 30, 2005 09:09 PM

Not broken. Smoking on air flights is not universally prohibited.

Posted by: Jay at June 30, 2005 10:14 PM

These are pretty broken, but because even if smoking were allowed, you wouldn't be able to put your ashes in it. In a recent flight, every ashtray i looked at was stuffed with garbage, and nobody cleaned them. I.e., they were completely full at the beginning of the flight. The plane was an Airbus, but I don't remeber what model.

Posted by: Bob at July 1, 2005 10:01 AM

I think it is too broken.

If you don't want them to smoke DON'T PUT ASH TRAYS.

Posted by: COMM at July 1, 2005 10:59 AM

The A321 is not an aircraft capeable of making many international flights.

If this aircraft was flying in the US, is would not have the range to make it to a country where smoking is allowed.

You are correct that the FAA regulation is only in effect on flights to or from the US, but almost every other country has banned smoking aboard aircraft. There are only a few African and Asian countries that allow this.

You will be very lucky if you find a flight that permits smoking onboard an A321 based in the US.

Posted by: Kevin at July 1, 2005 11:38 AM

I am an aircraft maintenance tech for Delta Airlines. The reason for the ashtrays on the aircraft is because the aircraft is type-rated by the FAA in that -exact- configuration. It is time intensive and cost prohibitive to remove them. Delta is in the process of updating the cabins in our MD-80 and MD-90 aircraft. The new

seat configuration does not have ashtrays.

You must have been flying on a Skyteam member aircraft with a Delta flight number, as Delta does not fly Airbus airplanes.

Posted by: Aircraft mech at July 2, 2005 04:33 PM

No, Mr. Opinionated, YOU are the ignaromuse. Seriously, can you really be arrested for trying to board with a cigarette? OH MY GOD! HE'S GOT CARCINOGENS! DO WHAT HE SAYS! Geez, i guess the ACLU's too busy destroying religion to protect smokers from this violation of their civil liberties.

Posted by: Bob, also opinionated. at July 8, 2005 09:56 AM

Not a cigarette, a safty razor, I was refering to the previous post.

Posted by: Sean P at July 11, 2005 08:09 PM

I think regardless of wether or not smoking was allowed in the sountry in which the plane was flying ( though most prohibit it) maybe the numerous NO SMOKING signs said to be posted on the aircraft would have been a hint, and the ash trays were only leftover from when the plane was first made, them costing money and time to remove.

Posted by: Ian at July 15, 2005 12:18 PM

Ian is correct. Most airplanes have service lives of about a decade, if not more. Those ashtrays are relics from the time when people could smoke on airplanes. Perhaps they realized that allowing passengers to spew carcinogenic smoke into a sealed air-suppy is not a smart idea. However, you will notice that there are far fewer ashtrays in newer airliners, I think they install some in case of the aforementioned smoker panic attacks.

Posted by: Plank at July 31, 2005 08:52 PM

This is slightly broken. I would argue that it is funny, but it should be left in place for other passengers to laugh at. Also, Airbuses are made in France, where chain smoking one cigarette at a time makes people think you're trying to quit.

Posted by: Sido at August 27, 2005 11:15 PM

I haven't been on one flight ever (and I do fly alot, internationally even) that allows me to smoke. Not even on a Royal Jordanian flight! (And trust me, ALL Jordanians smoke!)

It's still not broken though, I attribute the ashtrays to old aircraft

Posted by: Bill at September 30, 2005 07:59 AM

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