Those who have discovered the benefits of electronic cigarette smoking or “vaping”, are boldly going where no smoker has gone before. They’re vaping in restaurants, bars and even airports.
My popular article, “How to Smoke Your Electronic Cigarette in Public”, has given many e-smokers the courage and ammunition to do so; however, smoking on airplanes is still a sticky issue.
This article reports findings gathered from major airlines and the FAA as to policies regarding vaping onboard or carrying electronic cigarettes and liquids onboard. It also includes helpful information gathered from e-cigarette smokers who have dared to smoke their e-cigarette on a flight.
The Rules of the Game
According to FAA regulations, smoking a lighted cigarette or anything that produces smoke or flame is prohibited onboard most commercial aircrafts; however, the FAA has not as yet (August 2013) issued a regulation for or against electronic cigarettes, leaving that decision up to the individual airlines.
Officially, no airline openly permits vaping; however, it is NOT illegal – it is only against company policy. There is a BIG difference between the two. Company policy is enforced by your friendly (or not so friendly) flight attendant.
Checking the websites of all major Airlines (and then some), I found only three to date - Japan airlines, Airtran and KLM who do in fact, address the e-cigarette issue directly on their sites. Here’s KLM’s policy-
“All KLM flights are non-smoking flights. Smoking is not permitted at any place or at any time on board our aircraft. This also applies to artificial cigarettes”.
Funny that they chose to use the word “artificial” rather than “electronic”.
Airtran says -
“In addition to smoking, the use of chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes are not permitted onboard any scheduled or private charter AirTran Airways flight.”
I must admit, I’m relieved that the fat guy sitting next to me on my next flight to Miami isn’t going to spit tobacco into his cocktail napkin.
Japan Airlines posts this disclaimer on their site -
“Smoking is strictly prohibited through out the cabin including restrooms. The use of smoking devices without ignition such as “E-cigarette” is also prohibited as it may interrupt other passengers’ comfort or it may cause the misunderstanding among other passengers. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.”
Unfortunately it is this “misunderstanding ” that stops some airlines from allowing e-cigarette use, not any FAA regulation.
Calling the Airlines Directly
Since most websites did not address the issue, I called all the major airlines to inquire about their policy on the use of electronic cigarettes. True, I grew a few underarm cobwebs in the process, but my readers are worth such minor inconveniences.
As of this post, the major airlines that specifically say they do not permit the use of electronic cigarettes inflight are – Continental, American, Japan, KLM, Airtran, Delta , Southwest, United, Northwest, All Nippon Airways, US Airways, British Airways, Quantas, Iberia, Korean Air, American West Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Air China, Air Canada, SAS, KLM, Japan Airlines, Emirates, EasyJet, China Southern, Alaska/Horizon Air, Saudi Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa, and Thai airlines.
On almost every call, I was put on a brief hold so the agent could check with another employee. They returned only to restate the standard generic reply, “We have a completely non-smoking policy”.
The Saudi Arabian airline official (a very pleasant gentleman) who thanked me for asking such an interesting question, at first thought it would be permitted since he knew e-cigs were not “real”; however, after consulting with the higher-ups, he confirmed that Saudi Airlines did not officially permit electronic cigarettes. He did add that if a passenger requested permission on-board with the flight attendant, they may have more success.
It IS legal to bring your 2-part electronic cigarettes on-board!
Some people have been stopped by security trying to bring their e-cigarette liquid on-board. They must have either forgotten the 3oz bottle rule or their zip-lock bag was jumbo rather than quart sized. In any case, all liquids must be carried on according to airlines regulations. Personally, I prefer the newer, more sanitary 2-part electronic cigarettes or disposable e-cigarettes. Green Smoke , V2 cigs , and practically all those listed on our e-cigarette comparison chart offer them. You don’t have to re-fill rechargeable e-cigs with messy liquids that may get confiscated at airports.
More recently, airlines have advised NOT to put lithium batteries in your “checked-in” suitcase so carry your e-cigarettes in your carry-on luggage!
Keeping a very low profile is the key to vaping on an airplane. You don’t want to cause any concern to fellow passengers. I know many electronic cigarette vapers who have successfully used the products on-board airlines where the no e-cig policy is stipulated in writing,.. even if the telephone agents say “no smoking policy”.
The Secrets of Success
Here are Cloud Nine’s suggestions for smoking your e-cigarette on an airplane:
Show your designer e-cigarette to your neighbor and tell them it has no flame, no ash and no smell. Usually people are more intrigued than annoyed, and they want to see how it works. Green Smoke, V2 Cigs, Vapor Couture and Premium Vapes, all offer e-cigarettes in designer colors and designs so your cigarette doesn’t look real…just pretty! The above mentioned companies always have discount sales, so having a fancy e-cigarette battery for travel purposes is justified (at least by my shopping rules).
2- Stay Educated
Another good way to reduce passenger fears and misconceptions about e-cigarettes is to know about the latest findings. Many people are fearful of second hand vapor, but studies now show that it’s poses no apparent risk to human health. Read this report on second-hand vapor.
3- Make Friends With the Flight Attendant
While it’s always good manners, it has been recommended to exchange pleasantries with the flight attendant. Then, after she or he serves you a beverage and snack, ask if you may use your e-cigarette if you promise not to blow vapor into the aisle or into your seat-mate’s face. If you’re lucky you may get the attendant’s support but if you’re sitting in coach it’s no longer likely he or she will comply.
3- Sit in Business or First Class
If you are seated in business or first class, particularly on a long flight, your chances are a better at obtaining permission to use your e-cigarette. It’s also easier for the attendant to discreetly ask others nearby if they would mind seeing your water vapor demonstration. Don’t be surprised if someone doesn’t want to try out your e-cig too.
If You Don’t Like Confrontation….There Are Other Ways to Vape on a Plane
4- Keep A Low Profile
You can choose to be more secretive. Sit in a window seat and face the window. Cover the e-cigarette with your hand. Do NOT let your vapor rise above your seat… or simply exhale into a napkin, or up your sleeve.
5- Go to the Bathroom
Many people have smoked their electronic cigarette in the lavatory, although it is against airline policy (so don’t mention my name). Most smoke detectors are not sensitive to water vapor smoke, but I have recently learned of in incident where it did go off on Emirates Airlines, so vape discretely. I would not attempt blow the vapor near the detector.
E-cigarette vapor disappears within seconds, so there’s no lingering cloud left when you leave the loo.
Some people blessed with the olfactory glands of a bloodhound think e-cigs leave a slight flavor smell. If true, the worst that could happen is that the bathroom will smell like chocolate and people will be impressed.
The One Airline That Says “Yes”…. with a catch.
Ryanair, the Irish airline that “conquered” the European market with its amazing low fares, is the one airline that permits the use of electronic cigarettes, but there’s a catch – you have to purchase them on-board.
In 2009 the airline started offering passengers over the age of 18, disposable smokeless cigarettes for about $8.75 for a pack of ten. According to Ryanair company spokesman, Stephen McNamara, when smokers can get their nicotine, everybody wins. McNamara concludes,
“As these cigarettes are smokeless, they cause no discomfort to other passengers and can ensure a more enjoyable and stress-free flight for all passengers as non-smokers will no longer have to cope with moody smokers in need of nicotine.”
The bottom line is that most airlines prefer to disallow all cigarettes, including the electronic ones. Unfortunately the reason for this is not because they believe electronic cigarettes pose a danger to flight systems, but simply because they produce a vapor that may be mistaken for smoke and that may alarm some passengers.
Awareness of the true nature of the product and its benefits including the benign impact on the environment is the key to success not only for smokers but for commercial airlines as well. If the airlines received more inquiries from e-smokers it would create a greater awareness of smokeless cigarettes and their growing popularity.
As this remarkable product becomes mainstream; as more test prove that second-hand vapor is harmless, and as sales and positive press continues to grow , airlines may become more positive and proactive regarding the acceptance of these new devices. Airline competition is certainly on the increase and there is a whole new market of e-cigarette smokers out there.
If you have successfully (or unsuccessfully) used an electronic cigarette in flight, we’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below.
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