News | April 13, 1999

Smoking in cockpit allowed on safety grounds

OSAKA, April 13 (Kyodo) -- Japan's two major airlines have told their crews that they should refrain from smoking in cockpit, but the practice may be permitted if nonsmoking can pose a threat to safety, the two companies said Tuesday.

Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) have notified their employees that the cockpit is a nonsmoking area in principle but the ban can be waived in case safety is stake, JAL and ANA officials said. The measure applies to both international and domestic flights.

The two airlines circulated a memo to this effect after banning smoking for passengers on all international flights.

JAL's in-house memo says, ''Smoking can be permitted in the cockpit if prolonged abstinence from smoking could pose safety problems.''

ANA's memo, noting the fact that crew members, because of the nature of their occupation, are exposed to mental stress, says, ''(The nonsmoking rule) will not apply in cases in which smoking would have to be permitted for safety reasons.''

The two companies said such cases are exceptional, but admitted that whether smoking can be permitted in the cockpit is up to the captain.

A nonsmoking crew member said, ''I cannot insist that a pilot who is responsible for a safe landing refrain from smoking if his hands are shaking badly enough to pose a danger to all aboard. Basically, though, we should make utmost efforts not to smoke because it is our moral obligation, given that the passengers are not allowed to smoke.''

JAL banned smoking by passengers on international flights from April 1, three days after ANA implemented a similar ban. Smoking by passengers had already been banned on the domestic flights of JAL, ANA, Japan Air System and Air Nippon.

The measures taken by the Japanese airlines follow a recent trend among North American and European airlines to restrict in-flight smoking.

The nonsmoking rule introduced by JAL and ANA on their international flights means that more than 80% of seats on all international flights departing from Japan are now nonsmoking, and that smoking passengers will have to suppress the desire to smoke for more than 10 hours, in the case of some flights.