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Aeroflot Bans Smoking on All Flights



GettyOne photo





: Alexander Borisov  GettyOne photo



For many years, travellers from all over the world preferred flying Aeroflot. Notwithstanding the poor quality of on-board service, Aeroflot remained especially popular owing to, firstly, low air ticket prices, and secondly, to a smoker-friendly policy. Until recently smoking was still allowed on flights longer than 4 hours. As of April 1st smoking is banned on all Aeroflot flights.

That could have been considered an April Fools Day joke, but Aeroflot management announced the change at the end of March. By prohibiting smoking on all its flights Aeroflot is endeavouring to meet international aviation standards. The ban is introduced against the background of the Europeans ban on Russian noisy jets. Apparently, Aeroflot management considers smoke more hazardous than noise.

Aeroflot management, according to some reports, does not plan to abandon the bad habit, but passengers of the airline henceforth will be kindly asked to forget about smoking on board.

Aeroflots last ever smoking flight SU-527 left Sheremetievo international airport on March 30 and landed a day later in Shanghai. In this, some observers viewed Aeroflots choice of Shanghai as the last destination for a smoking flight as no mere coincidence. The history of Shanghai is inseparably linked with the Opium Wars, led by the English against the Chinese in the middle of the 19th century. The English made the imperial government sign a set of treaties, providing, in particular, for complete legalization of opium.

Aeroflot hopes that the war against smoking on board its planes will proceed more peacefully. Throughout the last year the company has been introducing the new rules cautiously. At first smoking was banned on flights with a duration of less than 2 hours. Beginning July 2002, smoking was prohibited on flights under 4 hours. And now, beginning April 1 smoking will be banned on all flights completely.

Passengers will be first informed about the new rules when they call Aeroflot offices to book a flight. Then clients will be reminded about the smoking ban when they check in for the flight at the airport. Obviously, the whole procedure is devised so that forgetful smokers abide by the new rules, and do not take cigarettes on board and give in to temptation. Moreover, henceforth Aeroflot tickets will have a special leaflet enclosed, informing passengers both in English and in Russian that smoking is explicitly banned on board.

Airline officials have explained that the ban was imposed primarily by the desire of the majority of passengers to acquire tickets for non-smoking flights, the development of a movement for a healthy way of life, and general worldwide tendencies in service industries. Aeroflot officials reference to desires of the majority of passengers sounds rather substantiated. In Russia, according to the latest statistics reports, only some 40 percent of citizens are smokers. Two out of every three males and only one in six females indulge in the bad habit. Such figures were presented to the State Duma by the Health Ministry when the house debated the smoking-ban bill a couple of months ago.

The Russian airlines efforts to meet international flying standards are quite understandable. A healthy life style has become especially popular lately, and many airlines which allow smoking on board now see their sales slump. However, it is no secret that hitherto many travellers chose the Russian airline namely because it allowed smoking. A relatively low ticket price combined with permission to smoke attracted both Russians and foreigners.

Western airlines usually offer high quality service on board. With a friendly smile, personnel of Lufthansa or Delta would kindly ask passengers to abstain from smoking for the duration of the flight. Those passengers who dare to smoke in a lavatory are usually caught red-handed, because smoke inevitably causes an alarm signal. On Russian planes stewards are less friendly, but hitherto smoking was not completely prohibited. Now smoking is banned, and the Russian airline hopes to assume non-smoking status.

Obviously, Aeroflot hopes that by banning smoking on board it will meet international flying standards. But then again, it is only an illusion. Ever since smoking was prohibited on shorter flights Russians continued to smoke in the lavatories, which kept toilets almost permanently occupied, and filled with acrid cigarette smell.


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