Flight Attendant Busted For Vaping In The Galley, They Make Their Own Rules!

Live and Let’s Fly writes about a flight attendant vaping in the galley, while admonishing passengers that they cannot vape on board. An Air New Zealand passenger reported,

I saw the flight attendant having a sneaky vape behind the curtain by the toilet. She inhaled on the vape three times.

I could even see the blue light, light up on the vape as she inhaled. She then took a mouthful of water which she swirled around in her mouth presumably to dissipate the smell.

The flight attendant’s vaping is an issue because it’s illegal and subject to fine, not because it’s inherently problematic the way smoking on board would be (exposing other passengers to the smoke).

The major reasons vaping isn’t permitted are (1) that there’s a stigma against it because it’s ‘like’ cigarette smoking; (2) bureaucratic inertia; and (3) other passengers might think vapers are smoking a cigarette even though they aren’t. It’s certainly not due to second hand smoke risk!

And it’s not the batteries, as some people mistakenly believe. Laptops, cell phones, tablets, and noise cancelling headphones are permitted. So are carry on bags with removable batteries, external battery chargers, and numerous other powered devices.

The flight attendant vaped on board making a calculation that they wouldn’t get caught or at least reported, and that probably works out for them quite often. Most of the time cabin crew are ‘unmonitored’ and while there are procedures, in practice there’s quite a wide latitude for deviation.

For instance, if you’re flying first class on American Airlines what percentage of the time do you receive a predeparture beverage?

  • Sometimes they’re pressed for time when boarding late, but what percentage of the time do you receive one with an on-time boarding?

  • It probably is not zero, and certainly is not 100% – because individual crewmembers vary in how they choose to perform their duties.

When the airline sends auditors on board, it’s only for safety items and not service.

One of the stranger variances I’ve had reported recently was a Tuesday evening flight to New Orleans where the flight attendant working first class asked everyone for their IDs prior to departure, “to expedite drink service.” They carded the whole cabin en masse, before anyone had asked for a cocktail. The youngest passenger up front was 44. Go figure.

When you’re flying the metal tube you’re on your own, and begin to think you make your own rules. Occasionally you get in trouble for that.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. At the height of covid, I saw FA drinking on AA while every passengers was denied service. Drinking on the job….. that would get ME fired and arrested.

  2. If it’s done discretely no problem. It’s not like we need more people freaking out on a plane.

  3. “Bureaucratic inertia” is not reason that vaping is banned on board. That’s a silly assertion.

    There are a number of perfectly valid reasons why it’s banned.

    The first of those is the same reason that airline CoCs ban overly-smelly things and include that as a valid reason to deny boarding. It’s both annoying to other passengers and also very likely to cause allergic reactions for other passengers nearby. People who smoke or vape don’t realize how strong the smell really is because they’re so numbed to it. When my coworkers vaped (outside) on break, just the lingering smell remaining on them was enough to give me a headache from nearly 20 feet away as they walked down the hallway past my office when they came back inside.

    Another is that *anything* with a heating element is banned for use by passengers on a plane. Not only are you not allowed to use a battery-powered heat-producing device on board, you must disassemble the device to the point that it is impossible for it to accidentally activate (e.g. by removing the battery, the heating element, a fuse, etc.) and you must also have the approval of the carrier to transport the device even in its disabled state. See 49 CFR 175.10(a)(14). Heating elements are inherently fire hazards. You shouldn’t use your curling iron, space heater, or portable clothes dryer on a plane, either. It’s just that most people aren’t dumb enough to try that, whereas people who smoke or vape are so addicted to their habit that they become oblivious to the obvious problems it causes.

    And finally, yes, the batteries are indeed a real concern. And not a theoretical one. There have already been several incidents of on board fires started by people ignoring the rules against using or charging their e-cig on the plane. A Spirit flight had to divert and 10 people went to the hospital because of this literally just 4 days ago. (NK259 DFW-MCO, which diverted to JAX.) At least that one was in the passenger cabin, though. In March 2019, a bag caught on fire *in the cargo hold* because some idiot put their vape pen in their checked luggage, where it subsequently caused a fire.

    Please don’t be an idiot. Follow the rules on this one. If you absolutely must travel with your vape pen, take the battery out before you get on a plane (and make sure your airline allows it first even in that state.)

  4. @vbscript2 – That’s silly. Cell phones catch fire on planes all the time. U.S. airlines board fire containment bags and heat resistant gloves on aircraft. That way when electronic devices catch fire they can deal with it. Once the electronics that caught fire is isolated, the fire containment bag gets stored in a metal cart in the galley, to be retrieved when the aircraft lands.

    And smell? That isn’t the reason, though it may be a reason *you* don’t want other passengers putting out water vapor. We allow passengers without deoderant all the time, and they can bring chinese food on board too.

  5. @Gary Sorry, but you’re just wrong on this one.

    Cell phones don’t have elements intentionally designed to produce heat. And they don’t draw anywhere near the wattage of a e-cig. And they tend to have significantly better quality control. When other classes of devices – such as the “hoverboards” that were popular several years ago – have been found to have well-above-average likelihood of starting fires, those have been banned from aircraft completely. Same goes for models of cell phones that have above-average battery fire risk (we all remember the Note 7 bans.)

    In 2022, the FAA had a total of 61 reported and verified incidents of smoke, fire, or extreme heat associated with Lithium batteries on passenger airline flights. Of those, 27 (44%) were due to “e-cigarette/vape devices,” making them by far the leading culprit, despite it already not being legal to use or charge them on board. By contrast, a total of 7 such incidents occurred with cell phones, despite virtually every single passenger (and crew member, for that matter) having and using them on board. The second-highest category was “battery pack/battery,” which includes spare batteries for devices of the other listed categories, at 15 incidents. Laptops had 9 and other electronics devices 3. The #2 and #3 causes put together still didn’t equal the number of incidents caused by e-cig/vape devices, despite them not even being legal to have on board in an operable state.

    And, yes, of course there are fire bags on board for dealing with in-flight fires (in the passenger cabin, at least) that do happen, but it’s a lot better to not start a fire in the aircraft in the first place. “Well, we can probably contain the fire, so it’s fine” is not how the aviation industry deals with significant in-flight fire risks. I think you’ve been around aviation long enough to know that.

    As far as the smell is concerned, using an e-cig is like spraying perfume all around you. That’s not allowed on flights either for reasons that should be obvious. It should be common sense that one should not do such things in close proximity to other people without their consent, let alone in a relatively small enclosed space. But unfortunately a number of people lack common sense, hence the rules against it in the CoC. Delta’s CoC says that passengers can be refused transport or may be removed from a flight “When the passenger’s conduct, attire, hygiene or odor creates an unreasonable risk of offense or annoyance to other passengers,” for example. Vaping in the cabin would definitely qualify there, even if it weren’t already banned by the CFR for fire safety reasons.

  6. @vbscript2 – “Delta’s CoC says that passengers can be refused transport or may be removed from a flight “When the passenger’s conduct, attire, hygiene or odor creates an unreasonable risk of offense or annoyance to other passengers,””

    In any case you are 100% wrong about the *reason* that e-cigarettes are banned (though you may have opinions as to why they *ought to be* banned, understand that those are different than why they are actually banned).

    The actual rule is explicit that the FAA considers the statutory ban on smoking on scheduled passenger flights to apply to e-cigarettes. They simply treat e-cigarettes as cigarette smoking. They’re even explicit in the rulemaking, “The NPRM stated our position that the reasons supporting the statutory and regulatory ban on smoking also apply to a ban on e-cigarettes”

    And by the way the FAA rule explicitly allows a passenger to emit vapor if it is from a “medically beneficial substance.” So it’s not about banning vapor! The regulation simply extends the ban on cigarettes to include e-cigarettes, which weren’t contemplated when the law was passed.

    Now, individual airlines probably won’t allow it! And that’s fine! Totally different than a ban that fails to serve a clear government purpose. There are plenty of perfectly safe vaping devices WHICH ARE ALREADY ALLOWED IN THE PASSENGER CABIN and most of the fires were not while those devices were in use. (So the ban isn’t actually preventing fires as you suggest.)

  7. Gary, its alleged that she was vaping and the New Zealand authorities are investigating it. So to say she was busted, is inaccurate and an assumption on your part. Even the other site you borrow from for your stories points this out.

  8. Sorry Gary but “water vapor”, you obviously vape or bought into their bullshi*. Next google how to smell something, I did because you didn’t:

    Whenever we smell something, our nose and brain work together to make sense of hundreds of very tiny invisible particles, known as molecules or chemicals, that are floating in the air. If we sniff, more of these molecules can reach the roof of our nostrils and it is easier to smell a smell.

    Yep, that’s right, the smell from your vapor is actually heated up chemicals, not water vapor.

    Next time you smell a fart, keep in mind it’s actually a poop molecule from someone’s butt hole in your nose.

  9. >>For instance, if you’re flying first class on American Airlines what percentage of the time do you receive a predeparture beverage?

    I can think of only one time in the last year when a pre-flight drink was offered in 1st. I’ve had probably 20 flights with upgrades so 5% is my number.

  10. @Christian “If its done discretely its no problem.”

    So if a FA who is supposedly there “for my safety” can break the law and vape cannabis in secret, its no problem? You must be one of those FAs that’s high on the job. You’re probably going to argue that its likely nicotine and not cannabis, and truth is that you don’t know and its irrelevant either way. She should be terminated immediately.

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