What Happens If You Smoke on an Airplane?

moking in plane forbidden sign

The other day I operated a flight from Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta. It was a full flight, the total flight time was 4 and a half hours, and throughout the flight it was busy.

Everyone was eager to start their vacations, and as such a lot of people were ordering a drinks.

Over all it had been a pretty standard flight. We had been particularly nice to a young woman who unfortunately was stuck  in a seat where the recline mechanism wasn’t working and her table tray had been removed as a passenger had damaged it on a previous flight.

Feeling bad about not being able to have her seat fixed prior to departure, we had even gone as far as to offer her complimentary bar service. By the end of the flight she’d had a beer and a vodka soda.

She was an interesting character. She had dyed blonde hair, bright pink lipstick, and in the words our Cabin Manager, “Big, fake boobs”.

For most of the flight she was pretty nice. Although I don’t think she had much of a filter, she was occasionally rude to us. Although I don’t know if she realised that. In any case, I deal truly rude passengers all the time, so on her rude occasions she never really bothered me.

Sometime around 45 minutes to landing, I was in the forward galley closing up my bar and chatting with our Cabin Manager (Let’s call her Rosa). People were constantly in and out of the washroom, as I’d made the announcement to the passengers suggesting “this is your final opportunity to use the lavatories before the seatbelt sign comes on in preparation for landing.”

As I was chatting with our Cabin Manager, I stopped suddenly and said to her, “Do you smell smoke?”.

It was coming from the Lavatory.

Rosa’s eyes went wide and pulled open the washroom door.

As soon as the door was open I was slapped in the face with the obnoxious odour of cigarette smoke.

In the lavatory was the passenger I told you about. You know, the one with the… lipstick.

It was obvious she had been smoking in there, that much is true. But she wasn’t holding a cigarette.

Rosa: “Where’s the cigarette butt?”
Lipstick: “I wasn’t smoking!”
Rosa: “Where’s the cigarette butt?”
Lipstick: “I wasn’t smoking!”
Rosa: “Did you flush it? You have to tell me where it is!”
Lipstick: “There were lots of people using the washroom. It could have been anyone!”

At this time the interphone rings and I answer.

The pilots can smell the smoke and want to know what happening.

I tell them exactly what’s going on. They ask me if we want the police to meet the aircraft in Mexico, and I tell them yes. I then tell them I need to assist with the situation and will call them back shortly.

Lipstick: “Look my seat doesn’t even recline and I don’t have a table tray”
Rosa: “Go back to your seat. Now.”

I tell Rosa we’ve requested the police meet the aircraft. At this moment she’s put on gloves and is digging through the lavatory waste bin searching for the butt.

Sure enough, there it was. It even had her bright pink lipstick on it.

On a side note; I want to point out how incredibly stupid it is to put a cigarette in a waste bin on an airplane. You know what the most common thing is in a lavatory waste bin? It’s PAPER! If you’re looking to start a fire, that’s how you do it.

We informed her that we found the cigarette and she’ll be meeting with the police when we land.

We also made a general announcement to the passengers explaining the situation, reassuring them that if they smell smoke there is no cause for alarm, and that the authorities would be meeting the aircraft.

The last 30 minutes of the flight was pretty routine. I updated the pilots, we tidied the cabin, secured, and landed.

When we got to the gate the flight deck called on the interphone and said “I’m leaving the seatbelt sign on. Make sure everyone stays in their seats so the police can come on and escort your passenger off.”

I made an announcement, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Captain has elected to leave the seatbelt sign on to allow the local authorities access to the aircraft. At this time we need you to return to your assigned seats until the seatbelt sign is turned off.”

When I opened the main entry door, there was only the gate agents.

I asked the agent, “Where are the police?”
He was surprised. “You want police?”
“Yes. Call them please.”
“Okay, they’ll be here soon.

It took about 10 minutes for the police to show up.

When they did, we explained what happened in flight.

They then came onboard the aircraft, asked Lipstick a few questions in her seat and then escorted her to the jetway. Rosa joined them on the jetway where they continued their conversation.

Once they were on the jetway, I was given the okay to let the other passengers disembark. I made an announcement thanking everyone for their patience, and wished them a pleasant holiday in Puerto Vallarta.

I missed the conversation with the police, as I stayed on the aircraft and said my goodbyes to the passengers.

I’m told Lipstick eventually admitted to smoking the cigarette, then took it back and said she hadn’t.

She finally relented and admitted once and for all when Rosa said “Look, we have the cigarette and it’s got your bright pink lipstick on it.”

In the end we didn’t press charges. But we did issue her an official warning.

We also let her know that both Rosa and I would be on her return flight the following week, that the airline is aware of her, and if she tries this again there will be no warnings. Apparently with that she apologised and was on her way.

About 10 minutes later, the pilots call me up to the flight deck, saying “Can you believe it? Look at this!”

I look out the window, and there’s Lipstick. Smoking on the tarmac (how’d she even get down there?!) with a couple ground agents trying to get her to put out the cigarette and go back into the terminal.

…I guess some people just need their nicotine.

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  1. Wow! Charges can be pressed against you for smoking on an airplane? I guess I’ve never thought about it that much. What about vaping or drinking alcohol you brought yourself.?I will admit that I have both Juuled and drank liquor from my own flask on a flight. I thought the worst case scenario was that the attendant would just tell me to stop. Of course I have never smoked. It’s impossible to be covert about smoking on an airplane.

  2. Hi Tobias,
    Drinking from your own flask is actually not permitted either. People might think that companies do that in order to sell more beverages, but it’s not the case.
    It’s because flight attendants need to make sure that people don’t over consume, get too drunk and aggressive.
    An aggressive passenger could be a reason to make an emergency landing…
    Vaping on board is like smoking, it’s also not allowed. There are a few reasons for this. It can tempt smokers to smoke real cigarettes. And more importantly, the cloud of vapor can look like smoke and lead to confusion. I have never encountered anyone trying to do it though. At least not yet!
    But smoking on a plane is something a lot of people still do, and it’s something taken very seriously. Because a cigarette can cause a fire, and a fire in the air is 100 times more dangerous than in a building or house, and one of the most hazardous situations that a cabin crew can be faced with.
    With a fire on board, nobody would be able to escape anywhere. The fire would spread in seconds and the smoke would make the air in the cabin impossible to breathe. Even if the masks drop, they would actually be useless because the air in the plane is recirculated so the oxygen provided would be contaminated too.
    Another important thing to know and it’s a biggie: Fines for smoking on a flight can range from $500 to $4000 depending on the country!

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