Can A Pilot Smoke In The Cockpit Of An Airline Plane?

Smoking is not just a well-discussed topic on the ground but also in mid-air. In the early days of aviation, passengers, crew and pilots smoking was still a common sight.

Can A Pilot Smoke In The Cockpit Of An Airline Plane?

However, with increased safety concerns over the last decades, smoking has been banned from many areas, including on planes.

Passengers are not allowed to smoke on the majority of airliners. But what about pilots? Are they still permitted to light a cigarette?

We take a look at smoking regulations on commercial airliners.

Can Pilots Smoke In The Cockpit Of An Airliner?

Yes and no. Some US airlines still allow pilots to smoke in the cockpit but this is a rare occasion.

Most airlines don’t permit their pilots to smoke and they often do not even hire smokers anymore.

However, this does vary in countries around the world. It also depends on the size of the airline.

Some smaller, local airlines may have much more lenient rules when it comes to smoking.

Why Can A Pilot Smoke In The Cockpit?

There are many reasons why a pilot might be able to smoke in the cockpit.

The main reason why some US airlines still allow pilots to smoke in the cockpit is to avoid any nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

The US government reviewed its smoking policy on airliners in the early 1970s. At this time, non-smoking areas were installed on planes.

However, the smoke circulated around the cabin, which affected all passengers. In addition, the crew even noticed that outflow valves would be clogged with nicotine and tar.

This made smoking a serious safety concern for passengers and crew.

The US government started to phase out smoking on commercial flights in 1988. However, the US still permitted pilots to smoke in the 1990s.

This is because they were concerned that the pilot’s cravings for nicotine could cause withdrawal symptoms, which could pose a safety risk for passengers and crew. 

This has been phased out slowly in the 90s, and up from 2000, all US flights were smoking free.

Is Vaping Allowed On Flights?

Similar to smoking, vaping is also banned on most commercial flights.

In recent years, vaping has become very popular among people who want to quit smoking.

This is the reason why, in 2014, the US government also prohibited the use of e-cigarettes on commercial flights.

You are allowed to carry a vape pen. However, it has to stay in your carry-on bag and it  should not be in your check-in luggage.

Why Is Smoking Not Permitted On Flights?

Can A Pilot Smoke In The Cockpit Of An Airline Plane?

There are a number of good reasons why so many airlines around the world have banned smoking on their flights.

Fire Hazard

One of the main reasons why smoking is not permitted on flights is because it poses a significant fire hazard.

Although most airliners still have ashtrays installed, passengers may throw their burning cigarette in the bin and this could cause a fire on board.

Fires on planes are dangerous because they can spread quickly throughout the aircraft.

If an airplane catches fire, then there will be a lot of smoke and toxic fumes. These fumes can make other passengers feel sick.

A fire on an airliner is difficult to put out. There is not much water on board, and if a fire spreads, then passengers cannot escape anywhere.

In addition, if a fire breaks out, then the plane’s oxygen supply system will stop working. This means that passengers will suffocate.

Health Risk

Apart from being a significant fire risk, smoking also poses a health risk affecting all passengers on board. 

Smoking is not only bad for smokers. Passengers who don’t smoke can also be exposed to secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke contains harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, acetone, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, benzene, arsenic, and lead.

These substances can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and skin. They can also affect your immune system and increase your chances of developing cancer.

The smoke of a cigarette quickly spreads throughout the cabin, and this means that other passengers breathe in the fumes.

This is particularly dangerous for people with asthma and other lung conditions. The smoke could be a critical health risk for them.

It could cause asthma attacks and heart problems.


The majority of us aren’t easy flyers. The unusual noises and smells on the plane make those who do not regularly fly nervous.

So, if passengers spot smoke rising from somewhere within the cabin or from the cockpit, then they usually consider the worst case scenario of a fire first.

This can quickly spread panic and anxiety onboard. For those with sensitive dispositions and a fear of flying, panic could increase and it could lead to panic attacks.

If there is a considerable number of anxious passengers,  then the signs of smoke could even lead to mass hysteria which may be very difficult to handle by the crew.

Are There Any Commercial Flights Where Passengers Are Allowed To Smoke?

Can A Pilot Smoke In The Cockpit Of An Airline Plane?

Yes, there are still some commercial flights where passengers are allowed to smoke.

Some airlines, such as Air Algeria and Iran Air, have designated smoking areas on board which allows passengers to smoke without disturbing other people.

In addition, the majority of airports across the world also have designated smoking areas for passengers who want to smoke before and after their flight.

Why Are There Still Ashtrays On Planes?

You can still find ashtrays and non-smoking signs on most commercial airline planes.

The signs are a continued reminder that smoking is not allowed on planes.

However, some airlines do still allow smoking in certain sections of their aircraft. This is the reason why plane manufacturers still build ashtrays in or near the toilet doors.

This does provide for the eventual situation that an aircraft is used for one of these airlines. 


Flying is not only about taking off and landing safely. It’s also about being safe and comfortable throughout your journey.

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, it pays to know what rules apply to you. Smoking during a flight can impact the comfort and safety of all passengers on board.

This is the reason why most airlines do not permit pilots, crew, or passengers to smoke on their planes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens If A Passenger Is Caught Smoking On A Plane?

Smoking inside the cabin is not allowed by most airlines. If a passenger is caught smoking while flying, he may face a large fine or he might even be arrested if he ignores warnings.

Can Pilots Listen To Music While Flying?

Yes, Pilots are allowed to listen to music during flights as long as it doesn’t distract them. Music can help to stay.

However, pilots should always stay alert and they need to be able to hear communication and ambient sounds.

Are Pilots Allowed To Drink Alcohol?

Pilots are not allowed to drink alcohol while flying because it affects their ability to focus and concentrate.

They must remain sober at all times when operating an aircraft.

Can Pilots Eat In The Cockpit?

Yes, pilots are allowed to eat in the cockpit while they are flying. This is particularly important during long-haul flights.

However, not all pilots eat at the same time. Usually, pilots take turns to make sure that there is at least one pilot in control of the aircraft.

Jacob Stern
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