People are only just realising why planes have ashtrays – when smoking is banned

Whether you're a frequent flyer or not, you would know that smoking isn't allowed on commercial flights.

But this doesn't mean ashtrays still can't be found on planes.

Before the year 2000, smoking was allowed on aircraft – but for almost 20 years now, it has been banned from flights globally.

In fact, many airlines had begun the process of phasing out smoking all the way back in the 1980s.

If you're observant though, you will notice that ashtrays can still be located on aircraft.

They can usually be found in or outside lavatories, which is even the case on newly built airframes.

So why exactly do aircraft still have ashtrays? Put simply, it's to deal with rule-breakers.

Just in case a passenger decided to light up in the bathroom and put the aircraft's safety in danger, it is still a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirement to have ashtrays available.

Rather than a disobedient passenger tossing a cigarette into the garbage and risking a cabin fire, ashtrays provide a safe spot to put out a cigarette.

The FAA considers an ashtray to be "minimum equipment" on an aeroplane, and any ashtray that doesn't work correctly must be replaced within three days.

According to Time, a British Airways flight from London Heathrow was reportedly delayed in 2009 due to a "vital" item being missing.

Maintenance had to "find" an acceptable replacement for an ashtray that was out of service on the aircraft, causing the Boeing 747 jumbo jet to be delayed on its way to Mexico City.

A Varig Boeing 707 made an emergency landing just 4 kilometres outside of Paris Orly airport in 1973, killing 123 people after a cabin fire started in the bathroom.

Although smoking is prohibited on all aircraft worldwide, keep in mind that ashtrays are provided for passenger safety in the event that someone does breach the regulations.

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