We Tried To Call Out Our Flight Crew For Smoking…

Hello from Shanghai! Matthew and I just flew China Eastern from Los Angeles to Shanghai, and as I wrote about several hours ago, every 15-20 minutes a strong cigarette smoke odor filled the cabin. We did some investigating throughout the flight, and never actually saw anyone smoking, which leads us to believe the smoking was going on in the cockpit, and the smell circulated throughout the plane.

China-Eastern-Business-Class-777 - 1

Upon writing about it, it seems that this is actually very common on Chinese airlines. I’ve flown Chinese airlines quite a bit and never noticed it, though several commenters mentioned they have experienced the same.

We wanted to do a bit of digging, more out of curiosity than anything else. So Matthew and I strategized for a bit, and he came up with a good idea. We wanted to see if we could get the crew to admit that someone was smoking, because we found their complete denial of there even being an odor to be so strange (it’s one thing if they agreed they smelled the odor but said it wasn’t them, but they denied the existence of the odor altogether…).

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Matthew asked one of the flight attendants to call the cabin manager. She sort of refused, and asked what the problem was. When Matthew explained the smoking situation, she said “oh, you want to smoke?”

“No, no, no, there’s a smell of smoke in the cabin, and we’re just worried. If it’s just someone in the crew smoking that’s completely fine, but we are worried it might be something else, and that makes us concerned.”

We figured that would be one way to get them to open up. “Nooo, maybe it’s just the oven?”

“No, it’s a very distinct cigarette smoke, it’s definitely not an oven.”

“No, I don’t think anyone smoke.”

“But don’t you smell that, it’s a strong odor?”

She pretended to sniff, and said “no, I don’t smell.”

Like, you must have your nose plugged not to smell that odor.

Matthew reiterated the point again, and then she went to talk to the captain (or so she claimed). When she returned, she said “captain said he has never smoked.” Yeah, I’m sure…

After clearing immigration we just happened to be passing through baggage claim at the same time as our pilots (we knew they were our pilots because we also saw them in the gate area at LAX, since we got to the gate early). They smelled like an ashtray, even from a few feet away…

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This is ridiculous and completely unacceptable. Does anyone know if they’re actually violating FAA regulations by smoking on a Chinese airline between the US and China, or do US regulations not at all apply (even though the safety video says that they’re a non-smoking airline, and there are non-smoking signs throughout the cabin)?

Comments

  1. I don’t think the FAA has jurisdiction over this, given that it’s not a US airline. Sure, the flight was from the US, but the smoking occurred over international waters and the airline was not a US carrier. FAA really cant do anything in this matter

  2. Hahahaha why should the FAA play a role in what’s going on in a Chinese plane? Bit of a ‘policing the world syndrom’? As you smelled the pilots I have no doubt they were the smokers but I can’t see why a domestic US agency would have any relevancy to that. It happens on other airlines as well, I have smelled it eg on MH.

  3. This is why I can’t take Chinese airlines seriously. DL has really screwed up by going with Chinese SkyTeam partners instead of trying to patch up the relationship with Korean Air.

  4. I think it’s OK for the pilots to smoke, but they are required to roll down the window.

  5. Huh? Why are you pushing this so much? It’s clearly a cultural thing, that you already knew about when you booked the ticket.

  6. FAA does have the ability to fine the airline, since it departed from a US airport. But because of the lack of workers rights in certain country, all you are really doing is getting the flight crew fired.

  7. That is very common indeed with Chinese airlines, passenger or cargo. They all do it. Specially when the Captains are into it. What they say or do, nobody can question it nor can they report it as his word can terminate them. Most pilots are wise enough not to do these as the tar and nicotine eventually gums up in the control boards, systems cards, etc…
    They dont care.

  8. I refuse to fly Chinese airlines. I’ve flown China Eastern from JFK-Shanghai and it was the worst experience ever. As a Chinese-American, I’m used to certain habits of Chinese people. Fellow passengers were loud, annoying and the phlegm hocking were non-stop. I couldn’t get any sleep throughout the 13 hours flight because people were walking up and down the aisle to stretch their legs. The FA were nowhere to be found after serving meals.

    I’m not surprised if the pilots were smoking in the cockpit.

  9. countries with communist past or present has different schools of just about everything in life, so is with being a pilot, they’re teached to do their job very well and to feel like they’re major guys because in fact they are, they safely took you around the globe and whatever they needed to do additionally in order to complete the journey safe they are allowed to do, same is in ex Yugoslavian countries, same with russian pilots, train operators, doctors, teachers, police… they separate themselves from general public and act like the rules don’t apply to them.

  10. It’s hardly a safety issue, or are you too young to remember smoking on planes?

    It’s a cultural thing, why are you pushing this? Wanting to get someone fired? (pun intended)

  11. FAA does have jurisdiction over airlines that flies into US. They can certainly fine and in extreme cases, take away their approval to fly into US. At least, that is my understanding based on my work and some of the fines FAA levied to foreign airlines in the past. Asiana crash at SFO comes to mind for recent example as DoT ordered a fine for 500K.

  12. smoking on a plane is not dangerous per se. it was allowed on many airlines not so long ago. smoking cabin was in the back. I did hate the smell.

    the dangerous part is when the cigarette end is not disposed properly – which was probably the case in the Egyptair crash. I am pretty sure that pilots will dispose their cigarettes in a way that does not put the plane in any danger.

    so this report is much ado about nothing.

  13. FAR 23.853. As long asan adequate number of ashtrays exist and there is a no smoking sign that can be illuminted by the crew, then there is nothing against federal regulations WRT cockpit crew smoking.

  14. Hey Lucky,

    I’ve flown China Southern and Eastern quite a bit and it has smelled like an ash tray on every flight.

    I believe it’s pretty common for people to smoke in the bathroom on these flights.

    When I asked a flight attendant on a China Southern flight from Hong Long to Wuhan, I was told “oh I’m sure it’s just someone smoking”

    It seems like a non issue to the China national airlines.

  15. It was permitted for a while after the ban came in but as for now one would need to consult the FARs.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflight_smoking
    “The 1990 ban applied only to the passengers and the cabin of the aircraft and not the flight deck. Pilots were allowed to continue smoking after the 1990 ban due to concerns over potential flight safety issues caused by nicotine withdrawal in chronic smokers.”

    Sec. 121.317
    http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgFAR.nsf/0/A8411424A9034439862569050061F24E?OpenDocument&Highlight=sec.%2025.1541

    Seems only to be permitted under limited circumstances (intrastate or supplemental operations)…
    “The pilot in command of an airplane engaged in a supplemental operation may authorize smoking on the flight deck (if it is physically separated from any passenger compartment)…”

  16. If this was a flight from the USA make a complaint with the FAA. Are you willing to put your name behind the complaint and stand behind it?

    Better yet post a photo of the crew smoking.

  17. Thanks for letting us know the issues with the Chinese airlines. That’s crazy. I don’t think I’d ever fly them now. Tho, I do believe it is a big deal when you put the lives of hundreds of people in jeopardy bc the pilot needs to smoke. It’s a blatant disregard of policy & safety of crew and others. I find it ridiculous esp given you have patches and the possibility of resorting to Vapes so the cabin doesn’t end up smelling like an ash tray. Anyways, good luck!

  18. The FAA has no jurisdiction over this matter, the US does not police the world just yet FYI. and unfortunately, the Chinese nonsmoking law only governs the cabin, not the cockpit.

    As annoying as it may sound, and unless you catch the pilots with their pants down, which is near impossible, you will have to live with it when travelling a foreign airline.

  19. Have you seen how much Chinese people smoke. I’m not that surprised that they were smoking.

  20. While I would not have been concerned that the pilots’ smoking was a safety issue (I would have been much more concerned with passengers smoking in the bathroom and the flight attendants not policing it)…. having the smell of smoke waft through the cabin constantly during a transpacific flight would have been extremely irritating to me, and would have certain impacted the premium cabins more than coach. That alone would be a reason not to fly this airline.

  21. It seems like it would be much more dangerous to withhold cigarettes from the Pilots, who clearly are addicted, versus the “danger” of smoking on a plane.

  22. Agree with the sentiment that while it’s unpleasant to smell the smoke on a long flight, and while there’s arguably a slight potential health effect from breathing in the second hand smoke, this isn’t a safety issue.

    If somebody’s lighting up in the lav, different story, because they’re hiding it and there’s a realistic possibility that they may put the cig in the waste bin. Bad things result.

    Flight crew, in the cockpit, surrounded by ashtrays? Not a safety issue. I’d argue that if the flight crew (especially the captain) is so addicted to nicotine that they’re willing to light up on a non-smoking flight, there’s more of a safety issue with not letting them have their fix and potentially having their judgment impaired.

    @Chris – on a lot of airlines, they used to divide smoking and non-smoking left/right, rather than front/back. You saw it a lot on European airlines. Made no sense to me.

    Greg

  23. Oh no did you and Ford get a divorce? He is the cutest human being. You guys need to get together again

  24. Don’t listen to people saying it’s not an issue, and you’ll just get them fired.

    Maybe they deserve to be fired. It’s a huge health issue, which can also be a safety issue. This would piss me off so much. Luckily, I haven’t experienced this yet on those airlines. I agree that it would be one thing if it was their policy and it was clearly indicated, but having the crew lie to you about it creates a situation where if there really was a smoke smell from a fire, it seems like no one would bother to investigate it.

    I would absolutely try to do something about it, even if it was just with media to raise public awareness.

  25. The real danger is not the cig. smoke… it’s the open flame that ignites the cigarette, and the method in which the cigarette is extinguished. Again – fire on board is one of the worst problems you can experience at 35k feet. You’ll have other types of smoke that can/will kill you much quicker when things go wrong with that open flame and you have no place to land for 2-3 hours.

  26. Thank God we have continued to avoid Chinese airlines like the plague. You almost had me convinced from all your reviews to try them. No thank you, we’ll stick with other airlines…

  27. It’s 2016, this is unacceptable.
    It’s a health issue AND a security one.
    There are people who are really physically affected by cigarette smoke (like me), and there is no where to run from this smoke inside an airplane!
    All the commenters who say this is a non-issue must clearly be smokers themselves.
    Non smokers, and specially asthma sufferers and related, have to speak up more often in this situations and similar situations, like smoking in hotel rooms.
    After reading this I would never think of flying any Chinese airline in the foreseeable future.

  28. I’m chinese and i support you to take further action to deter this kind of inconsiderate, unsafe, and dishonest behaviors, especially from airlines crews/pilots themselves. For those of you whether chinese or not, i see no points in politicicing this incident, although i see where that comes from given the role bossy Amercicans like to play. The only thing i feel sad about this is that it needs take a foreigner to solve this matter for us.

  29. hope this gets posted onto weibo or whatever it was last time that got the china southern crew into demotions and sacking.

  30. Lordy Mercy Lucky – give it a rest already. So the Captain smoked. Get over it!!
    Back in the day, as already mentioned by several, smoking was allowed on all flights. Even though the smoking section was in the back, it smelled through the entire cabin. Bring a mask next time and quite yo bitching!!

  31. Been through a heart procedure and under very strict instructions to stay away from smokers. Staying there for an entire transpacific flight? Nuh-uh. I would have sent myself to Y.

  32. I really don’t see the “pilots are addicted” side of this being justification for them smoking. Cigarettes are not the only way to ingest nicotine… patches, gum, e-cig, etc would all be much less impactful to the passengers on the plane.

  33. As others have noted, issues like this, as well as the terrible experience that is PVG, really raise questions about Delta’s strategy of buddying up more closely with China Eastern. In the long game Shanghai will be a compelling place to have a close partnership hub similar to what they have in Amsterdam, but there is so much work to be done to get the partners there in the meantime.

  34. Disgusting and unacceptable. If individual crew members start deciding which rules to follow and which ones are OK to break, sooner or later something will go wrong.

  35. Hilarious to see all the people who were angry with Lucky for using his phone in S. Africa to come out against him when he calls someone on the rules. The way I see it:

    1.) YES, this concerns the FAA. A plane carrying American passengers from America over international water with fires on board (in the cockpit no less.) We can pretend that the FAA has the same authority as the Azerbaijani flight authority in the interest of non-imperialism and liberal values, but come on people.

    2.) Introducing fire on an airplane is a no-brainier bad idea. Fire is pretty much a plane’s biggest enemy. Choosing to light fires in the cockpit and keep them going is an insane safety risk. What if a real fire started, could they differentiate the smoke fumes? What if the cigarette dropped onto something flammable, like clothes? Give me a break, horrible, horrible idea. Unlike the cell phone ban, there is a GOOD REASON FOR THIS RULE.

    3.) There is no “benefit” in the cost benefit analysis besides comfort to the smokers. If lighting cigarette-like items were necessary to keep the plane moving, we would do it and figure out ways to mitigate the safety risk. But there is just no argument to keep this going.

    Lucky, I absolutely agree you are right to be flabbergasted, and can’t understand your readers who say this is no big deal.

  36. @Steve

    You are right. The FAA doesn’t ban smoking in the cockpit. Therefore they are not violating any rules. However, they should have taken actions to ensure that no passengers are affected by the smell.

  37. This used to be common several years ago and then banished for healthy concerns but not for safety concerns. Again, people smoked all the time on planes and you would leave like you slept on an ashtray. Totally disgusting but not related to safety.

  38. Why not complain to the airline? Ask for compensation. That’s probably the only way to effect any change here. If their Western customer base is eroded because this “habit” is being exposed that might get the airline to enforce its own policies. You are uniquely positioned with your blog to do damage by reporting these incidents.

    After reading your report, I’ll never fly with them. Who wants to pay for premium air and sit in a gas chamber for hours?

  39. @butterbub et al. Just because smoking was allowed back then, doesn’t mean it should be allowed now. We learn from our mistakes, right? Otherwise, with the same logic, we might go back to force left-handed people to become right-handed because being left-handed is a sign of evil; or we might justify slavery for that matter…

    Smoking on a plane is always a potential safety hazard – no matter who does it. In particular, the captain is in charge of the plane, and since he’s in charge of enforcing rules throughout the cabin he should be the first one respecting the rules. If he needs to get fired to change the attitude, so be it. By smoking on a plane he knew what he was potentially risking…

  40. Pilots smoke all the time on Chinese flights. They usually ask the flight attendants to make a simple device for smoking: put a wet napkin on a paper cup with some water in it, and stick the cigarette into the napkin to contain the smoke. They are actually ALLOWED to smoke when in cruise according to the regulations of Civil Aviation Administration of China. That shit is too long so I wont translate it here.

  41. LOL … I love the comment about China lacking “workers rights” being the problem here. These employees are breaking company policy and breaking the law … and it would be unfair to fire them for representing the company like this in front of customers? Get a grip… I’ve got no love for China’s human rights record, but this is not a workers rights issue.

  42. It should be noted that in China a non-smoking section is a section where not everyone is smoking.

  43. Next time just bring a pack and light up to see what they say. Wait until your over the middle of nowhere first of course 🙂
    Seriously I’d write a complaint to the airline just to see what they say. Make sure to include your frequent flyer number in case they want to contribute that way.

  44. Lucky, it was 100% the pilots. The last time I flew China Eastern, I ended up in the cockpit for half the flight smoking with the crew, it was a blast, but probably unsafe.

  45. You did the right thing time. I support you to discover this ugly captain. Many Chinese are non-stop smokers.

  46. This is not uncommon on all foreign airlines, especially in countries where smoking is still widely accepted. We had the same percipience of smoking in the cockpit on Iberia last summer. We were told that it is up to the pilots. It is not that they are smoking that bothers me, it is the smell that makes it difficult to enjoy the up-front cabin.

  47. When your mother was swindled by that guy in Barcelona, did you go back and file a report with the Los Angeles PD and demand they open an investigation?

    Cuz ‘Merica!

  48. Amazed how many blithely ignore your valid concerns about smoking by the crew and make you out to be the problem! I’m certain any carrier that flies to the US has to abide by FAA rules if they want to keep their license to operate. I’d file a complaint with the FAA about this.

    As for the DBs who claim smoking is a “cultural thing”, those people have their head so far up their backsides they see sunshine.

    But this is just one more reason I have no desire to fly on a Chinese airline…or visit China.

  49. BTW – it’s absolutely ridiculous pilots are smoking in any flight.

    It’s not the actual smoking that bothers me, it’s the lighting of the cigarette.

  50. I would simply demand that your mileage be reimbursed because the pilots made your flight miserable. You can cite how many times you complained during the flight and nothing was done. Their response should be interesting.

  51. Ben, if you’re bothered by it so much, a few things come to mind. You can post about it in Weibo. Find a friend who knows his/her way around Weibo, and post your rant/complaints about the smoke. You can ask other passengers on that flight, if they smell smoke like you did, record it, then upload it in YouTube, then post it in Weibo. Or you can just take your business somewhere else …. and not fly with them and be done with it. You can write to Skyteam maybe … complaining about your experience with one of their partner, maybe you’ll get somewhere, maybe you won’t. You can try their Customer Service, or come to their local office to complain. We came to Air China Paris office once, because their phone support was not helpful at all in assigning seats for us. The next day we received an email from their local agent, very apologetic, and got us exit row seats.

  52. 14 CFR §252.5a
    (1) Foreign air carriers shall prohibit smoking on flight segments that occur between points in the United States, and between the United States and any foreign point, in the following types of operations:

    (i) Scheduled passenger foreign air transportation.

    (ii) Nonscheduled passenger foreign air transportation, if a flight attendant is a required crewmember on the aircraft as determined by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration or a foreign carrier’s government.

    (2) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to require foreign air carriers to permit smoking aboard aircraft.

  53. Yes, FAA has jurisdiction on any flight entering or exiting the US, just like foreign agencies have jurisdiction over US airlines entering and leaving their territory. However, jurisdiction is limited by international law. Generally, aircraft have the nationality of the country they are registered in, but the application of certain laws and regulations can vary depending on whether the aircraft is on the ground, pre-departure (eg, alcohol must be sealed and secured or else face US customs), in the air in US airspace, or in the air while in international airspace.

    Regarding smoking, US law prohibits smoking anywhere in an aircraft performing scheduled passenger service, whether a domestic or foreign carrier (PL 106-181). The regulations implementing this law are 14 CFR 252. To quote the regulations, “a foreign government can object to the rule as an extraterritorial application of U.S. laws and request a waiver of the requirements, once bilateral negotiations with the U.S. have put in place an alternative smoking prohibition.” I very much doubt the US has an “alternative smoking prohibition” agreement with the PRC. That having been said, I imagine any effort by the US to apply this law to PRC-registered planes would be met with an extraterritoriality objection and enforcement issues.

    Of interest, CA prohibits flight deck smoking and has censured staff for violating this company policy. Considering that MU doesn’t even have a good track record of keeping passengers from smoking, I doubt they have a policy against flight deck smoking.

  54. This is (yet again) a very culturally chauvinistic post. For someone who travels so much it is disappointing that you can’t understand the cultural undertones at play here, for example you put the cabin crew in what one imagines they would have found to be an awkward situation and then made it worse.
    If this bothers you so much, either don’t fly with them again, or complain to the airline directly. Your previous entitled rants caused significant real life ramifications for another Chinese crew, one would have hoped that you would have more tact after that incident.

  55. China cares not for your Western sensitivities (seriously).

    This post is cracking me up… to think that this sort of “outrage” had much chance of being met with an attentive ear.

  56. 1. Smoking in a bathroom and throwing a cigarette in the trash is a safety risk…

    2. Planes have gone down for that very reason…

    3. Flight attendants need to know if someone is smoking in the lavatory to police this behavior…

    4. So that planes won’t explode… (Varig, Air Canada, Egyptair)

    5. The best way for a FA to police this is to use his/her nose…

    6. He or she can’t really sniff out cigarettes if the whole cabin is already permeated with the cigarette smoke from the cockpit…

    7. So no, it’s not acceptable…

    8. I think he should get his 70,000 miles back at least. Whether or not he should take it to the FAA is up to him…

    9. His Alexa score is plenty high on this blog, and a good percentage of readers (including me) have come away from this post resolving never to fly China Eastern, so I think he’s already had a fair impact.

  57. @stvr
    he’ll never get those miles back. They did deliver him from point a to point b, and that’s it.
    the takeaway – no flying on china eastern

  58. @David +1
    I will choose another airline to cross TPAC until China Eastern address this issue.

    I’m not against smoking, but if you are going to do it, why not outside the plane. LOL
    But seriously, I’m certain whoever smoked on this flight (and fellow sympathizers) can understand that there are other passengers who can’t tolerate smoke for however long the flight maybe. It’s not like passengers can open the windows anytime for fresh air; we are on a confined space cruising over 35000ft. Do you still think smoking on a plane is ok? puh-lease.

  59. I am curious if Matt had said “Yes” to the FA’s question “oh, you want to smoke?”, if he would’ve been taken to the cockpit?

  60. People here who are saying things like “it used to be allowed, so what’s the problem?” need some serious lessons in logic. “It was once legal so it’s fine” does not make any sense at all. There is a REASON it is not allowed anymore.

    Even if the safety risk is minimal, smelling cigarette smoke throughout a transpacific flight is not okay for the passenger experience. This is something that could definitely ruin a flight for a passenger, especially those up front who might have paid thousands of dollars so that they can have a pleasant flight.

  61. As a long haul pilot of many years, I can assure you all that smoking IS a safety risk and you are quite right to be concerned, Ben.

    A Fire in the cabin is probably one of the worst scenarios we could ever have to deal with on board. The fact that smoking was allowed in the past didn’t make that any safer then than it would be now.

    Flying has become about mitigating risks and this is a big one!

  62. IMO it does tell a story about the attitude of flight crew – both pilots and flight attendants – and also the airline’s safety culture.

    In modern day aviation I find it impossible to justify smoking anywhere in the aircraft.

  63. Back in the good old days my 747-200 cockpit had an integrated ashtray for each seat on the flight deck. Oh the good old days

  64. This reminds me of the numerous times I’ve been inside a smoke-filled establishment in China, with a no-smoking sign next to the perpatrator.

  65. And one time at bandcamp…

    Maybe its unpleasent to smell smoke, but stop that ignorant rant about health isues, every morning you Wash your “holy health tempel” in chemicals, you put on fragrances which is filled with hormons – you where wondering why your child has a penis on his forehead, because you infused your body with hormons. You Wash your clothe with detergents brush your teath with chemicals.

    The smell of new car or plane what a smell, its on sale in wallmart and you know what its not fresh air its chemicals, making your pupu or chuchu look strange.

    But wait it smells like cigarets get the robe and the Lynch mob, we Got ourselv a smoker yihaaaaaa.

    Talk about fanatics.

  66. I think anyone suggesting Lucky get 70k miles back because he didn’t like the color of the seats, the bread wasn’t served with the appetizer…and he insisted that he smelled smoke are hysterical .Seriously, did you all crawl out of your safe spaces long enough to read this blog?

    An accusation isn’t proof of anything…if complaining about smelling smoke was all it took to get miles refunded…many mileage users would be flying for free because it’s so hard to prove or disprove after the fact ..baring the few folks who have integrity and wouldn’t make something up for compensation.

    As much as I enjoy Ben’s trip reports, he does have an admitted history of finding fault in order to get compensated. He also has been dishonest to the point an major US carrier accused him of theft and banned him from the airline.

    So please, keep up the encouraging words to him to get all his miles refunded….it amuses me.

  67. @Bob cut your “culturally chauvinistic” bs. It was a violation of rules by an airline that flies to the US. Being of different culture doesn’t give you a pass to do whatever you please

  68. Dear Ben,

    Most oriental airline carriers are like that and in China everybody smokes, same as in south east Asia, south Korea and Japan !

  69. To me the issue is most about a captain who thinks rules don’t apply to him, and subordinates who are too scared to question him. This can lead to other real safety issues. What other rules does he feel he doesn’t need to follow? If he does something wrong will a co pilot be able to question him?

  70. Shocked! I’m shocked to hear that a Chinese company doesn’t consider it necessary to adhere to rules or even tell the truth. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy some Chinese-made Baby formula laced with anti-freeze, dog food containing lead, and eco-compliant flooring that has toxic levels of formaldehyde.

  71. You should write a complaint to China Eastern and to the FAA about this situation because it is a serious matter of safety and they may even loose their right to fly to the US.

  72. I had crew that smoked on Air China from Peking-LAX three years ago, and posted about it here on the blog when it happened. I was in F, and found it mildly unpleasant, and shocking that it was something that the flight crew were allowed to do. From other’s comments here, it sounds like it clearly is a cultural thing.

  73. @Martina, you need to apply the principle you quote ‘An accusation isn’t proof of anything’ to your comments about Ben’s past behaviour.

  74. The moment you declare its not a safety issue you know what will happen, hundreds of chinese passengers lighting up. How safe and secure do you feel knowing 100+ people flick their bic to light their cig at 35,000 ft. While you can’t regulate another country’s business you can sure as heck call them on it and make sure you never do business with them again. One thing chinese hate is to be shamed. But then again this is common knowledge and behavior on chinese airlines so I’m not all that surprised.

  75. @2paxfly

    Except for the fact that Ben freely admitted he did make complaints to United for credits and that they did bar him from flying. He also admits they send him a letter saying he owed him in access of 4k, 4k+ he says he tried to REPAY but they wouldn’t accept payment for; and that he is still barred from flying.

    Those aren’t accusations, those are the facts which even he acknowledges.

    Which still brings me back, anyone thinking or suggesting he should get 70k of miles in compensation , I find wildly amusing.

  76. Get a life all of you. If you were to refuse to fly on a airline as the flightdeck were smoking then that counts out most airlines. It is not just a Chinese problem. Turkish, Air France, TAP, Alitalia, Gulfair, Omanair, KLM, BA, Korean, nearly all the former Eastern block countries plus many others.They all do it. As for the smoke detectors in the toilets the majority of them do not work.

  77. This is just one of many examples of why you should avoid all airlines from mainland China – a complete waste of money and/or miles.

  78. @David: I can’t speak for the foreign carriers, but I can assure you that the smoke detectors in the lavs of US airlines most certainly work…every single one of them. The public’s not made aware of it, but the FAA fines airlines worse than a speed trap in a small town. You better believe a non-functioning smoke detector is grounds for holding the aircraft until it’s repaired.

  79. This is great news for smokers to Asia! haha! …awful for the rest of us, and I will now avoid this airline!

    To catch them in the lie I would have said “I’m dying for a ciggy, where can I smoke, since someone else is smoking and I’d love to join them” 🙂

    The FAA does have the right to speak with the carrier…but honestly, not much will happen.

  80. Good heavens. Prior to 1990 there was a smoking section on every airplane. We all survived. It may not be pleasant, but it’s just cigarette smoke, not poison gas.

  81. Ben, for the most part love your blog. This is a non issue though. For everyone else complaining about the impact it may have on their own individual health…..im sure there is nothing that you do that is bad for you.

  82. By international law Chinese are allowed to do whatever they want. No one supposed to call them out. FAA is busy auditing poor countries with total of 2 planes, but they are very happy with China.

  83. The aircraft cabin usually followed the law which the aircraft registered.

    Civil Aviation Administration of China banned smoking in aircraft cabin, no matter domestic or international flight, but it seems not including cockpit.

  84. The same happened to me on an American Airlines flight from ORD to PVG five years ago. From what I could tell, it was an all American crew though. I was in FC but I could not tell if the smoke was coming from the crew’s sleeping compartment, the flight deck or possibly a lavatory. It wasn’t terribly strong. Had it been a lavatory being used by non-crew, I’m sure the crew would have put a stop to it. I did not investigate but the crew seemed not to notice.

  85. If I need to pick between occasional smoking in the cockpit and the systematic fabrication of pilot certifications/qualifications by pilots at certain Chinese airlines, I guess smoking is less hazardous to passenger safety.

  86. when I was a smoker I enjoyed much traveling in China , Turkey and Egypt; you can smoke even inside the airport!

  87. First off, sorry you had to endure over 12 hours of that smell. I personally do not like the smell of cigarett smoke. Secondly, I did fly China Eastern on their 777 just to see what J was like but thankfully it was from BKK-PVG, which was a much shorter flight. Also, I didn’t smell smoke at all on that flight (whew!) but I trust your judgment and would have done the same.
    I know you guys were in J but did other business class passengers notice a cigarette smoke smell as well? Just curious as I think it would make a better case to file a complaint all together.

  88. I even saw cabin service manager named: Wang, X (Male) Smoke with so-called ‘an quan yuan’ aka airline safety staff.

    Pilots do smoke in Chinese airline it is common. And, I know a lot of Chinese pilots personal.
    Once a pilot on CZ invited me to Smoke together, but I don’t smoke.

  89. Quick question: does the airline present itself as a smoke-free carrier? I’d assume it would as part of the Skyteam alliance.

    With regards to ANYONE smoking on a transpacific flight regardless of the carrier…

    Lets suppose someone who is asthmatic claims to be experiencing a life-threatening emergency due to the cigarette smoke which requires the plane to divert for medical issues. Seems this would inconvenience everyone & probably cost the airline a small fortune in additional fuel/labor costs (not to mention passenger compensation depending on the airline). Don’t think anyone would want this scenario to play out.

    Better to be safe than sorry by simply banning smoking by anyone on all flights.

    PS: personally, I would’ve actually considered claiming to be asthmatic & requested & emergency landing if the cigarette smell wasn’t located & neutralized immediately. Kind of a jerk-move, I know (so save the criticism). Just remember, in this case I’d be the paying (money or miles) business class passenger, so I would think that would matter to the airline & (hopefully) the crew.

  90. Helpful piece – I learned a lot from the analysis – Does someone know where my business would be able to locate a fillable CA DMV REG 343 example to type on ?

  91. I was in the second row of business class on a Paris-Amman Royal Jordanian flight and kept smelling cigarette smoke. I finally asked the flight attendant if Royal Jordanian allows smoking on their flights and she said “no”. I told her I smelled smoke and she looked uncomfortable and walked away.

    Pretty sure it was coming from the cockpit…

  92. ‘health issue’ LOL

    Not compared to taking the London tube, or walking around the UK capitol. Spend a day in London, then blow your nose – and that;s only the crap that’s not already in your lungs…

  93. What a bitch this lady is. If the pilots wants to smoke let them smoke, some people may not like the odor of your husband’s musk or your old lady perfume, but no one continuously compound about the bad odor coming off your body. So, just ignore it. I would pay double the price to be able to smoke a delicious cigarette on an air plane. What the Chinese pilots choose to intake into their lungs is none of your concern it’s not going down your throat so just shut your mouth mind your own business and stop trying to get people fired from their jobs. How evil can you be? The guy who sat in front of me on this plane has terrible body odor but I’m not complaining to the flight attendant about it. Smokers have rights as well. Just become you don’t condone it, doesn’t mean you can discriminate against Chinese citizens, that is racist and you are a crazy butch who is probably just looking to start drama cause you have no life. So the next time you see or smell some one smoking don’t be a bitch and run your mouth and complain. Just be quiet and mind your own business. It is each humans free choice to do what they wish with their body. When you drive your car by a dump it smells bad for a brief second you don’t call the town and complain because that’s what a dump is. The smell of cigarettes is appealing to some so just became it doesn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean you have to try to report good working people who smoke. Just ignore the smell if you don’t like it and don’t try to start drama you crazy bitch.

  94. If you had said you wanted to smoke.. you could get a selfie with pilots in the cockpit smoking cigarettes. And seriously you could, I’m Chinese and my mate asked one of the flight attendants if he could have a cheeky fag, she said wait a second and came back saying the captain asks you to join him in the cockpit. Sometimes you get invited to the crew rest area. I think in most airliner there either aren’t any detectors in the cockpit or the pilots simply switch the circuit breaker off. Personally, I don’t think there’s a huge issue for smoking on an airplane as long as they are careful not to throw the butt around and let the plane catch fire XD

  95. What a fussbudget you are. This is what we get for 40 years of “It’s all about you!” and participation trophies.

    And second hand smoke injuries are bull.

  96. You should update your post to include what you have learned. From what I know, all smoking bans are just for the cabins not the cockpit errr sorry that’s even now not pc, I mean flight deck

  97. Gee, in the “good old days” I not only could smoke cigarettes on the plane, I could go in the toilet and smoke weed. What is the point of nostalgia? I could go on forever about how it was, but this is NOW.
    This is a review and well done for describing everything from the food to the AIR! I’m wondering if the Vogmasks I bought to get through the air pollution in Beijing and Shanghai would help me, as I have developed a strong allergy to tobacco. Also appreciated the point about not having water, so I can buy some if I end up on MU J class. Also appreciated the points about other airlines that tacitly allow smoking.
    It’s an empirical report, nothing more or less, and thank you very much.

  98. Smoking is allowed from the cockpit and cabin crew even on domestic US flights. The FAA ruled in the late 90’s about safety concerns about nicotine withdrawal from the crew. It is those who smoke who ride in the cabin that has to suffer. I recently flew LAX to Sydney on Delta and every hour or so I could smell cigarette smoke. At first, I thought some American or Aussie was smoking in the toilet, as this is a 14-hour flight, but later found it was coming from the cockpit and the rear crew rest area. The reason you hear a whistling sound in the lavatory is that is where the cabin air is exhausted and that smelly dump you just took, fresh outside air is compressed by the engine turbine, heated, oxygen added and comes through the overhead vents. As for me, I smoke. This decision way back when got me off of commercial flights and into my own private plane. You look at what the airlines are able to pull off now, and the best you can do is “I smell smoke.” The cabin air in a commercial airplane is just nasty.

    You would think this would be updated since it is from 2002.

    https://www.nap.edu/read/10238/chapter/4

    It should be emphasized that recirculation air is not a substitute for outside air and that the flow rate of outside air required to maintain acceptable concentrations of gaseous contaminants is not reduced by using recirculation. Furthermore, the use of recirculation has no detrimental effect on cabin air quality for a given rate of flow of outside air and, when combined with effective HEPA filtration, does not contribute to the spread of infectious agents in the cabin.

    Recirculation air is obtained from the area above the cabin, under the floor, or both. Only air from the passenger cabin is recirculated. Air from the cargo bay, lavatories, and galleys is not recirculated (Boeing Co. 1988) but is separately vented overboard so that odors and cargo-bay fire-fighting chemicals that could be used in the event of a fire are not introduced into the cabin (Boeing Co. 1995).

    The flow rate of outside air per seat ranges from 5.9 to 9.6 L/s (12.4 to 20.4 cfm) on older aircraft without recirculation and from 3.6 to 7.4 L/s (7.6 to 15.6 cfm) on aircraft with recirculation (M.Dechow, Airbus, personal communication, Feb. 16 and March 8, 2001; Boeing responses to NAS, April 10, 2001). The percentage of recirculated air distributed to the passenger cabin typically is 30–55% of the total air supply. Some models of aircraft can use different amounts of recirculation or turn recirculation off. Other models are programmed to use different amounts of recirculated air during climb or descent compared with cruise.

    Table 2–1 summarizes the characteristics of the ventilation systems of various aircraft models (adapted from Lorengo and Porter 1986). It shows that most aircraft use bleed air rather than ram air as the source of cabin air, and it demonstrates that as aircraft have moved from 100% bleed air to recirculated air, the amount of outdoor air has decreased.

    The use of recirculation has been common in the design of building environmental control systems for many years. In contrast with aircraft, in which the total air flow to the cabin varies from 0% to 55% of recirculated air, building environmental control systems are commonly designed and operated with up to 90% recirculated air. However, the buildings still must maintain flow rates of outside air of about 0.5 kg/min (1.1 lb/min) per person or more to meet ventilation requirements regardless of the amount of recirculation (ASHRAE 1999b).

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