Why Do Planes Still Have Ashtrays?

The first time I ever went on a plane was February, 1979 and I’m pretty sure the flight (Eastern Airlines, then “The Official Airline of Walt Disney World” – it was our first visit to WDW) had a smoking section. I don’t remember if my second (also Eastern, also WDW, but January, 1983) or third (Bethel ME, March 1985…Peoples Express. We went skiing and I got drunk on a can and a half of beer. Why do I remember this crap???) flights allowed smoking, but by my NEXT flight (again WDW, Sept. 1992…Delta, because THAT was then The Official Airline Blah Blah Blah) and all those thereafter definitely did not. And yet, even today, almost 20 years since the last cigarette was allowed to be smoked on ANY plane (domestic, international, anywhere in the world; doesn’t matter), you can still find ashtrays in every single one of them.


Welp, I found out 😉

It’s an easy answer, actually. Essentially, even though “No Smoking At ANY Time” is the rule…even though there are announcements about no smoking and no vaping and no messing with the smoke detector in the lavatory, and even though there’s a big ol’ light-up sign next to the “fasten your seat belt” sign, that says so…

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 9.10.32 PM

…some jerks think they’re above the law and can do whatever they want. Case in point:

The former Westlife singer Brian McFadden allegedly “ran amok” on a Virgin flight from Los Angeles to Sydney – and was accused of lighting a cigarette in a first-class cabin. The cabin crew reported the behaviour to staff at Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport. McFadden dismissed the incident as a “storm in a teacup”. No formal complaint was made by the airline, and police made no further charge.


Now obviously, most of us are not flying in first class and hopefully the vast majority of us are not so ridiculous as to think they can ignore the No Smoking rules on a plane and get away with it. But even nowadays, Joe and I will occasionally be in planes that have ashtrays in the arms of our seats. We usually just chalk it up to it being an old plane but apparently they still build some new planes with ashtrays in the arm rests JUST IN CASE some idiot decides to smoke.

But wait, it gets better!

Do you know where aviation regulations REQUIRE you to ALWAYS have an ashtray?

In the rest room.


This picture kind of says it all:

Via Business Insider / Amanda Macias

The reason is simple.

IF someone is going to try to sneak a smoke, chances are they’re going to do it in the bathroom, where no once can see them light up. And if they decide to flick their ashes (or worse, the smoldering butt) into the trash, what’s in there?


Lots and lots of very flammable paper. So aviation law says that rest rooms on planes MUST have an ashtray in the lavatory JUST IN CASE some numbskull decides to smoke on the plane, so the cigarette can be put out in a safe place and not potentially set the plane on fire. And if there isn’t an ashtray in the lavatory, the plane can’t fly.

And now you know.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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