The Real Reason Why Airplanes Still Have Ashtrays Will Surprise You

Smoking has been prohibited by U.S. airlines since the 1980s. By 1990, smoking was prohibited on all domestic flights that were up to six hours in duration, according to CNN. But there is one puzzle that many people are trying to solve: why do we still find ashtrays in airplane bathrooms? If you have decided to ban smoking, why would you need one? Well, it turns out it’s not there to tempt you to light a cigarette. There is a better reason behind it.

How many times have you been on a plane and read those boring signs? No smoking, not unbuttoning your belt during takeoff, no electronic devices during takeoff and landing… Then, you see the no-smoking sign on the bathroom door, and right below that sign, you can find an ashtray. What a crazy world we lie in!

Since 2000, smoking has been prohibited on almost all airlines worldwide. But do ashtrays in the bathroom mean that the airplanes are old? Not exactly. Thank God they aren’t!


“You’re not allowed to smoke, but some people still do it,” a cabin attendant on a Cathay Pacific flight bound for London says for the media. She added that she usually finds someone smoking every six months. “So if you do smoke there has to be a safe place to stub it out.”

This safe place is not the lavatory’s waste bin as there are likely flammable tissues inside. Airplanes need to be cautious, especially after a couple of incidents with fire in the past.

In 1973, 123 passengers were killed on a plane traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when the pilot had to make an emergency landing after the cabin filled with smoke. Can you guess why he did that? Well, because of a cigarette, of course.

That’s why you can now find an ashtray in all airplane bathrooms: they are actually listed as a legal requirement for “minimum equipment” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – a rule which is taken very seriously. In 2009, a Mexico-bound British Airways flight was grounded after it was discovered that it doesn’t have any ashtrays. Wow!

Needless to say, you mustn’t take ashtrays in bathrooms as an invitation for you to smoke. They are basically there because the FAA does not trust you not to.

Here are 19 details about airplanes that you’ve probably always wondered about.

Source: Time