Home Travel Why Do Planes Still Have Ashtrays?

Why Do Planes Still Have Ashtrays?

by SharonKurheg

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) 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 after that definitely did not. And yet, even today, 20 or so years since 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 aircraft 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 armrests 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 restroom.


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 one 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 restrooms on planes MUST have an ashtray in the lavatory JUST IN CASE some numbskull decides to smoke on the flight, 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 aircraft can’t fly.

And now you know.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Tim - Take me to the Points November 16, 2018 - 3:21 pm

Interesting. Can’t say I’ve ever really given it a second thought before, but I know that I’ll be proudly bringing this out as my ‘useless fact of the day’ at some point!!!

Tim – http://www.takemetothepoints.com

SharonKurheg November 16, 2018 - 3:28 pm

LOLOL! You’re gonna be a hit at parties!

Christian December 18, 2019 - 8:59 pm

(snort of amusement)

DaninMCI December 18, 2019 - 8:39 pm

I’ve been on new 787’s with tiny ashtrays in the lav but not of this makes sense as you could just throw it into the sink or toilet anyway.

derek December 19, 2019 - 12:45 am

There was an Air Canada flight from DFW where half of the people died due to a trash fire in the lavatory, likely due to a cigarette. The plane landed in CVG.

SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT December 19, 2019 - 1:30 am

I remember when back in 1988 when NWA was the first airline to ban smoking on it’s flights – this was shortly after they had acquired Republic Airlines – and by 1988 NWA had become a much larger domestic airline.

One of the best things NWA did – eliminate smoking! Within a few years after NWA banned smoking, a few other airlines also banned smoking and then the government stepped in and banned it completely. For me though, NWA became a terrible domestic airline after they acquired Republic. NWA’s international service though was still good – as you had the legacy Northwest Orient employees on the wide-bodies. Similar to what AA is going through today with former HP/US and legacy AA employees – a mess.

Oh – the one memory of People Express – flying from EWR to ORD for $29 – on a dilapidated 727 as we rumbled down the runway at EWR – I didn’t think the damn thing was ever going to take-off. The pilot came over the P.A. and introduced himself as “Bubba”, the $3.00 checked bag fee, and .50c for a can of Coke on board! The plane was packed to the gills – all coach.
I never flew PE again!


SharonKurheg December 19, 2019 - 2:09 am

Yeah but PE had those Rachel’s Brownies….Yummmmm!

SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT December 21, 2019 - 3:40 pm

I don’t remember the brownies, but even with Bubba the pilot, my one flight on PE was was fine and I was able to snag a seat in the no smoking section. But that aircraft was packed. Oh…and the days of the old Terminal C at Newark – talk about ready for battle – that terminal was a nightmare on a good day. But gotta hand it to PE, low fares all the time, even with fees for checked baggage and food/drink. I just wanted to try the “experience”. Flew back on ML (Midway), MDW-EWR. This was 1984 when PE was in it’s heyday before they melted down mired in bankruptcy.

I also miss the “old” ML airlines – they had great service, although most flights were to/from MDW – toward the later part of ML’s life before they shutdown in 1991, they operated a small hub at PHL.


Björn April 23, 2022 - 6:29 am Reply

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