United Airlines Passenger Illegally Vapes Throughout Flight, While Cabin Crew Shrug

A United Airlines passenger is shown in a video surreptitiously vaping during a flight, and then exhaling water vapor. Another passenger on board who videotaped the incident shared that it was brought to the flight attendants, who “completely dismissed it.”

Ironically, United Airlines was first to create a nonsmoking section on a plane back in 1971. It wasn’t until 1994 that a U.S. airline banned smoking on all flights worldwide – that was Delta. Air Canada, for its part, went completely non-smoking in 1990. U.S. airlines were still allowed to offer on board smoking up until 2000.

Nonetheless, planes still have ashtrays, generally in or near the lavatory, because customers may smoke even though it’s illegal to do so – and they need a place to put out their cigarettes. Without ashtrays they’d be most likely to put out their cigarettes in the lavatory trash.. and light the paper tossed away inside on fire. People do still smoke on planes!

Here’s an American Airlines flight, where a passenger in the first class bulkhead lit up a cigarette. A flight attendant hero who “snatched it out of his hands.”

E-cigarettes are banned, too, 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. And airlines have procedures – and burn bags – for dealing with outlier issues inflight.

The major reasons vaping isn’t permitted are (1) that there’s a stigma against it because it’s ‘like’ cigarette smoking and (2) other passengers might think vapers are smoking a cigarette even though they aren’t. It’s certainly not due to second hand smoke risk! Then again there’s liability protection, since a passenger once sued an airline after burning himself with his own e-cigarette.

It was just a week ago that a Delta passenger vaped on a flight after demanding a seat for her pit bull.

You’re no longer even allowed to bring e-cigarettes into Australia without a local prescription, which you can get online.

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. There’s attendants for flight attendants now?

    Seriously Gary, how hard is it to proofread your stuff?

  2. E-cigarettes produce much more than water vapor. Explain why my roommate in grad school produced a strawberry scent in our apartment each time he vaped?

    As to the AA flight attendant “hero” the problem is AA staff aggression cannot be turned on or off. So it’s useful in legitimate punitive situations such as this. But when you ask for a vodka soda and they roll their eyes and implore you to tell them what kind of soda because they are uncultured enough not to know that a vodka soda means a vodka plus club soda? Yeah, that’s AA.

  3. Vaping is also completely illegal in Singapore. Hefty fines for both importation and/or use.

    Then again, it is Singapore, after all.

  4. @alison flight attendants are not bar maids – they are not required to memorize drink recipes. It’s a legitimate question.

  5. Lol, “water vapor”

    Yeah, and when you smell my farts that’s water vapor also, not a bit of my poop that is now lodged in your nose.

    You people really fell for that water vapor bullshit.

  6. I do partake in the inhaling of mother nature’s finest herbs but never in a public setting where others are around that may be put off by the scent. It’s called respect and the people shown in the topic have no respect for themselves or others it appears.

  7. Farts aren’t “a bit of poop.” The smells are of sulfur gas etc.

    My under britches tell a differnt story.

  8. When all else fails, it is easy enough to find out where the airlines’ respective CMU (certificate management office) is located. Usually in the city where the airline is headquartered. Once the CMU is located, it is easy enough to find out who is the manager of the CMU. Contact him/her and file a complaint. Airlines don’t like to be called down by the CMU!

  9. David, eat more fiber and drink more water. What you’re seeing is smearing of poo around your anus. You need to solidify your poo.

  10. How this this become a sh*tty Convo? lol… Oh btw vape is a oil not water, how the hell do you get water vapor from oil. smdh!

  11. As a non smoker I am to the point of who cares. There is no evidence this kind of second hand vapor is a health hazard to others and pilots I have talked to have said e smoking poses no threats to the safety of an aircraft as does the use of cel phones. If either was a serious threat they would not be allowed on aircraft.

  12. I hate inhaling other people’s 2nd hand vapor, i can taste it and it’s totally nasty. I don’t want your strawberry juice flavor in my mouth and nose.

  13. Using the term “vaping” is quite broad. As a Juul user I can assure you that not only do you never notice it but I have discreetly vaped Juul for years on planes without incident (only in Intl J cabins where I can be a bit more private.) Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

    If you use a flavored vape or one that produces clouds of smoke, of course, this is completely idiotic. They do smell or at least are obvious in how much smoke is created. Not like cigarettes, but still, they have enough footprint to create attention despite any arguments as to their harm to others (there is none).

    The reality is that these idiots will create a public perception that all vapes create the same footprint of annoyance to others. When in fact it is far from the case. I was on an Etihad flight recently from Vienna, the woman across from me in J openly dragging away on her Juul without even trying to hide it. No one cared or even noticed. At least I am more discreet. Because I recognize that if we blatantly do it the Karen’s will scream….just because. Oh, and trust me, no smoke detector will ever pick up a Juul in the toilets. Further proof that the “right” vape has absolutely no affect on anyone or anything.

  14. The flight attendants might have shrugged, but it doesn’t say what happened when the plane landed. It’s easy to call ahead.

  15. @ptahcha — FAs ought to be trained to know their own menu. This is basic stuff.

  16. Gary, you couldn’t be more wrong about vaping and the risk of second hand smoke!

    While we don’t know the full scope of the problem of second hand smoke from vaping yet, we do know that vape aerosol contains a number of harmful substances, including: nicotine, ultrafine particles that have direct biological effects, particularly on the cardiovascular system and lungs as well as various other toxins, including several cancer-causing agents.

    The United flight attendants who refused to stop the passenger from vaping should be fired or at least severely disciplined.

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