In the 1990s and sometimes until the early 2000s, this question was a daily routine at the check-in counter: "Smoker or non-smoker?" there are practically no more smoking flights anywhere.
From today's perspective, one can see a disturbing image on older advertising subjects of various airlines and of course also in films that were shot a long time ago: passengers who smoke on board commercial aircraft and that completely legally. At times, it was even considered good form for some airlines to offer their guests free cigarettes. The flight attendants, who were still officially called stewardesses back then, went through and offered them pieces of chocolate, just like they do today.
A smoking flight was a flight where smoking was permitted on board. In the past smoking flights were common and there were specially designated smoking areas on the aircraft where passengers could smoke. However, smoking flights have been phased out in most countries due to health concerns and safety risks associated with smoking on board. These days, smoking is generally banned on flights, regardless of whether it is a domestic flight or an international flight.
Smoking seats on airplanes were specially designated seats where passengers were allowed to smoke when smoking was still legal on board. Smoking seats were usually located in specific areas of the aircraft, separated from the rest of the cabin either by curtains or by a partition. So much for the theory, because in practice this separation often did not exist at all.
People smoked in the Hindenburg too
Almost nobody had safety concerns about smoking on board. Why? After all, there was also a smoking room in the LZ129 "Hindenburg" and, in contrast to modern commercial aircraft, there were thousands of cubic meters of hydrogen just a few meters above the heads of the smokers. Nothing happened in this regard, because the Hindenburg disaster that happened in Lakehurst had a completely different cause.
Smoking was once so socially accepted that it was taken for granted that people smoked almost everywhere. Whether in the sick bed in the hospital, on the talk show on TV, in the parliamentary session, in the train compartment or on the plane: there was smoke pretty much everywhere. The resulting increased cleaning costs gradually got on the nerves of many airlines. In Europe, however, it took an extremely long time for the airlines to ban the blue haze from their cabins.
In the USA, the ban on smoking on airplanes was gradually introduced. In 1988, the US federal government banned smoking on flights lasting less than two hours. In 1989, the government banned smoking on flights lasting less than six hours, and in 2000, smoking was completely banned on all US domestic flights. Russian airline Aeroflot continued to use a loophole on Fifth Freedom flights for a few years and was briefly considered "American's smoking airline", but this was quickly patched by the US government.
British Caledonian was a pioneer in Europe
The British airline British Caledonian was the first airline in Europe to introduce a smoking ban on its aircraft in 1986. Other European airlines followed British Caledonian's example in the late 1980s and 1990s and also introduced smoking bans on their aircraft. Lufthansa began restricting smoking on board its aircraft in 1995 and by 1998 it was completely smoke free. According to media reports at the time, Austrian Airlines denied for a few weeks that they would also ban the fags. Incidentally, the Qualiflyer cooperation partner at the time, Swissair, was quicker: since 1995, the blue haze above the clouds at the former national sanctuary of Switzerland had been taboo.
Incidentally, Niki Lauda took a rather peculiar path with his then Lauda Air. In commercials, he has personally emphasized that his flights are completely smoke-free, but acknowledged that there are small smoker's bars for people who can't stand it. The name was exaggerated, because it was nothing more than classic smoking places. The blue haze above the clouds was completely suppressed in 1998, which in a certain way is also thanks to our cooperation partner Lufthansa, who is said to have put the corresponding pressure on Niki Lauda. Lauda Air banned smoking on board even before Austrian Airlines.
The AUA and the affiliated regional airline Tyrolean Airways, which was gradually taken over completely, only introduced a smoking ban on all flights in 1999. Previously, this was also allowed on holiday flights in particular, but also on most long-haul flights. On the short-haul, people began to fight the fags much earlier.
It took much longer for Air Berlin and Condor. This is probably also due to the fact that both providers were heavily focused on holidaymakers in the early 2000s and there were fears that there could be a drop in sales if smokers had to give up their addiction. However, the "clearance for smoking" was gradually being increased, i.e. the flight time had to be longer and longer. In 2007 both carriers finally banned smoking above the clouds. Air Berlin no longer exists, but the smoking ban was by no means to blame.
Introduced hesitantly, now taken for granted
It is now unthinkable that one lung pull after the other is taken in the cabins of commercial aircraft. However, there are repeated reports that crews from Egypt, in particular, should not take it very seriously. Sometimes people smoke secretly in the galley, sometimes in the cockpit and anyone who is on good terms with the crew as a passenger is allowed to smoke right away. Of course, no airline will officially confirm this, but so many passengers who complain about this "unofficial practice" every year can hardly imagine it like that.
In any case, in Europe, the smoking ban has gradually been implemented completely. However, there have been some smaller regional airlines in Europe that have allowed smoking on board for longer than has been the norm in most countries and airlines. Incidentally, Aegean Airlines is a curious example of a “very late smoking ban”. This was only anchored in the General Conditions of Carriage in 2018. However, it has been banned since 2009 at the very latest, for the simple fact that Greece passed a law banning smoking on commercial planes. Nine years later, Aegean Airlines has evidently noticed that although they obediently obey the law, they have forgotten to write this in the conditions of carriage.
Aeroflot and Cubana were the last "smokers' paradise"
The last airlines to allow smoking on board their planes were Aeroflot and Cubana de Aviación. Aeroflot introduced the smoking ban in all cabins on flights within Russia in 2014, while Cubana de Aviación introduced the smoking ban in all cabins on flights within Cuba in 2015.
At least officially, the smoking ban was put in place to ensure the safety and health of passengers and staff, and to comply with international standards and guidelines set by the Montreal Protocol of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Since then, all airlines around the world have banned smoking on board their planes. However, this is the embellished variant that is told in public, because originally the motivation was neither health nor safety, but simply the fact that one wanted to save costs. Purely non-smoking flights have lower cleaning costs, the cabins and seat covers last longer and the filters in the air systems do not have to be replaced as often.
The bottom line is that this quickly adds up to millions of euros per year for the entire fleet. The fact that hardcore smokers book somewhere else during the transitional period, when there were providers with smoking seats and others with non-smoking flights only, was readily accepted. Sooner or later the competition will also introduce it, at the latest when the legislator decrees it.