China Finally Bans Smoking In The Cockpit

Filed Under: Misc.

Over the years airlines have updated many policies. For example, as a kid I remember flying Condor between Tampa and Frankfurt every summer, where they had a smoking section onboard.

Smoking policies have changed significantly over the years, and at this point I don’t know of any airline that allows passengers to smoke onboard. While a vast majority of airlines also prohibit crews from smoking, it happens more often than you’d think.

After all, it’s not like airline crews have anyone watching over them, so if the captain is comfortable with it, there’s little that can be done about it.

Smoking pilots are most common in China, where smoking onboard isn’t actually explicitly prohibited. Rather it has been a grey area for long, as China has banned smoking in the cabin, but hasn’t explicitly banned smoking in the cockpit.

I’ve written in the past about my experience flying with China Eastern and experiencing smoking pilots. While that was annoying, the reality is that there are potentially much bigger safety implications to this.

For example, last July an Air China flight descended about 25,000 feet as the cabin seemed to lose pressure.

The cause? A vaping pilot. The first officer was smoking an e-cigarette, and wanted to turn off the recycling fans to prevent the vapor from spreading into the passenger cabin. Instead he accidentally turned off the air conditioning in the cabin, which created the sensation of depressurization.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China has taken this problem seriously, and it looks like rules are about to change big-time in China.

Caixin Global is reporting that the CAAC has issued a notice this week asking airlines to implement a no-smoking policy for pilots effective immediately. This was supposed to take effect as of the end of this year, but has been moved forward.

It will be very interesting to see the extent to which pilots adhere to these new rules.

(Tip of the hat to @hobbseltoff)

  1. This is the main reason I avoid flying Air China, China Eastern, Xiamen, Hainan, and China Southern. It’s one thing to ban something but it’s another to enforce it. Smoking is an addiction for some people and if you’re a pilot who happens to be addicted to smoking, I wouldn’t be surprised if you still smoke onboard despite the ban on a longhaul flight.

  2. @Debit

    Love waking up to your anti-Republican, anti-China, anti-Russia, anti-Trump and generally closed minded posts.

  3. Banning and enforcing in communist countries are two very different things. People go to jail for “allowed” things all times there. Been there, seen it, suffered from it…

  4. @debit,, China and Russia don’t pick fight with everyone. They continuously expand their territory and fight nations that try to stop them. They don’t fight nations who quietly allow them to be gobbled up. The only way to maintain a nation that has poor population but strong arms is with constant land extensions.

  5. @Wecax:

    Me, too! I don’t always agree with Debit, but (s)he sure does make great posts. Plus I like that it gets some people all riled up so they can be internet tough guys/gals behind the anonymity of the keyboard. Good times had by all!

  6. This is a terrible idea. If they want to implement a non-smoking policy, do so with some advance notice. Having a long haul pilot with the jitters due to nicotine withdrawal while landing doesn’t seem like the best idea of the year.

  7. @Wecax – Despite some currently inconclusive evidence, I’m not sure that lumping together China, Trump, and the Russians is the way to go. But you’re certainly entitled to do so.

  8. Is there a bigger danger of Chinese pilots going into immediate nicotine withdrawal? Maybe they need to allow time for cessation programs? 🙂

  9. @ Ben — This is great news that I wouldn’t get elsewhere! Thanks for the informative post.

    Assuming this rule is strictly enforced, this opens up a whole new world of travel choices for me as an asthmatic. I feel for the badly addicted pilots, but I suppose they have options in the patch and gum. Maybe Nicorette should be sold duty-free in flight!

  10. @Debit

    Last time China was involved in a war was in the 80s. Talking about warmongering people, count how many times US invaded other countries since the 80s. Use your brain

  11. I’m always amazed that people take up smoking in this day and age with all the known health risks associated with the addiction to nicotine. I sure don’t want to be exposed to a smoke filled cabin on a long haul flight. Hopefully this policy will result in healthier crew members and reduce to risk to the flying public.

  12. Lucky,

    Can you make a post about Debit and Endre? Who are these people? Their comments always seem to stick out in these threads.

    If you can’t, can someone at least clue me into the history of these commentators? I never see characters like these on other travel and credit card blogs.

  13. @Debit – the Japanese committed horrendous war crimes against the Chinese from 1937-1945. This doesn’t excuse the current behavior of the Chinese but the Japanese cannot today claim the moral high ground. Neither have wrapped themselves in glory.

  14. Health mom here. I don’t like smoking because it’s bad for you. All the doctors will tell you it puts dangerous toxins in your body. I don’t think anyone should smoke and I definitely don’t want my children to smoke. My children (4 and 6) are vegan so I think they will grow up knowing what is right and wrong.

  15. Do we know if this is Endre or a new one? Because “Endre” can’t type without mentioning his PAID first class flights. I think there are two different Endres… maybe one of them should clarify

  16. @Donna

    If the Japanese who committed war crimes were 18 years old back in the last year of the war, they would still be at least 90 years old today. You want to hold an entire nation accountable for the actions of a very small (and rapidly diminishing still) minority? Sounds pretty irrational.

    China is still committing atrocities against its own today.

  17. @David – I stand by my post. I clearly stated that the Chinese have blood on their hands. As for the Japanese, the passage of time doesn’t dismiss the atrocities of the past especially while some of their victims are still alive.

  18. Having worked as an airline pilot for a Chinese airline I can assure you this is more “smoke” than anything else coming from the CAAC. Implementing this will be comical. The stories I could tell…..

  19. Unbelievable. All Chinese carriers have poor service in any premium class. CX is different for now. Why anyone would buy a ticket on them is beyond me. CHEAP is the answer. Almost all people in Canada in the know strongly urge no Canadians go to China unless they have a diplomatic passport. China has 2 million Uighurs in “reeducation camps”. Liked Nazi concentration camps This is the way Chairman Xi would like to do this to anyone who is not subservient. Just like the worst tyrant of the 20th century. MAO. He beat out Stalin and Hitler for this “honor”

  20. @Peter Brown
    Yes, Hitler murdered millions of foreigners, and a couple of million of Germans (many of the Jews were citizens of other countries before 1939)
    Stalin murdered more millions of his own people.
    Mao murdered millions of his own people and destroyed most of his own civilisation.

    All were awful, but the apparently common idea that Hitler was the worst seems to be a product of a successful Soviet propaganda campaign (long before Facebook!)

  21. @ Derek

    No, the pilots and crew on Taiwanese (ROC) airlines (EVA Airways and China Airlines do not smoke. They also hire a good number of foreign pilots that behave themselves and put their passenger’s safety first. Please note China Airlines and air China are not the same entity nor are they related in any way. I know it’s confusing…

    @ Schar

    Cathay is only TECHNICALLY a chinese airline as they were long in service before UK handed Hong Kong back to China. Can’t really compare them with real Chinese airlines.

    @ Joey

    You’ll be fine flying with Hainan and Xiamen (Sichuan is another story according to Lucky’s experiences). These are private owned airlines that are fairly new to the industry on a global scale, they tend to have younger pilots and also hire a good number of foreign pilots.

    The smoking issue mainly rests with the Chinese BIG3 (yeah everyone has a big 3) of Air China, China Eastern, and China Southern. These are the government owned airlines and have been in existence for a long time before the deregulation that allowed private entities to enter the field. Majority of their pilots are Chinese, and the Chinese culture does not condemn smoking. I’ve had numerous dinners with Chinese pilots where they discuss how to get away with smoking on the job, they actually boast about it… The flight attendants do it too, they just enter the cockpit whenever they want to light it up. Even the hotshot first class passengers can enter the cockpit (this is post 9/11) to smoke if they wanted to.

    This new announcement is just all for show. It is a way for the Chinese to “save face” with the numerous of reports. The ones that were smoking will continue to smoke, and there will be no enforcement.

    I am not going to get into the political jargonning that happens here everytime an article about China comes up. That’s another forum…

  22. Apparently some people here simply stop thinking and start yelling off-topic stuff when they see China in the title…

  23. @debit Sorry, you’re not correct. China settled its border dispute with Tajikistan some time ago. They are totally cool with Tajikistan.

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