Outrage over 'smoker' on flight

Police have launched an investigation after a video was posted online showing a woman puffing smoke from an electronic cigarette on a Shanghai Airlines aircraft.
Outrage over 'smoker' on flight
Ti Gong

A woman is pictured smoking an e-cigarette on a Shanghai Airlines flight from Urumqi to Karamay in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on August 2.

Police are investigating an online report of a passenger smoking an electronic cigarette on a Shanghai Airlines' flight, the carrier said on Tuesday.

The female passenger began puffing and blowing a cloud of smoke when Flight FM9235 from Urumqi to Karamay in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was about to land on August 2, according to footage posted on Weibo.

While many responses expressed outrage at her behaviour, others wondered why flight crew hadn’t intervened. 

"The passenger must be handed over to the police with severe punishment or even get blacklisted as a deterrence to others," said Su Shanling, a netizen.

Shanghai Airlines is cooperating with the police to verify and look into the incident, the carrier said.

The flight that took off at 12:42pm landed safely at the Karamay airport at 1:22pm.

Smoking, including vape smoke, is not allowed aboard Chinese commercial passenger flights.

Passengers can report to crew members or security guards onboard as soon as they find any violation to ensure the safety, healthy and orderly environment of the flight, the airline said.

According to China's security administration punishment law, people who violate the order of public transportation like bus, boat, rail and airplane can face up to 15 day detention plus fine.

E-cigarettes endanger safety because their lithium batteries are likely to overheat, catch fire and even explode, said a senior Boeing 737 pilot with Longhao Airlines, a Guangzhou-based cargo airline.

"Passengers must alert the crew immediately if they find any smoking in the cabin," he added.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the nation's civil aviation regulator, banned all kinds of e-cigarettes on flights in a regulation released in 2015 when a product called Ru Yan, literally meaning "similar to smoke,” became popular.

Such e-cigarettes could be harmful to the health of other passengers in the narrow confines of the cabin, the regulation says.

The CAAC released another regulation in January 2019 reiterating that e-cigarettes are also strictly banned among pilots and crew.

Violators face being grounded for a year while repeat offenders will be suspended from flying for three years. Fellow crew members who fail to stop a smoker could also face a suspension of six month, according to the new regulation.

In a previous case, an Air China flight from Hong Kong to Dalian in Liaoning Province made an emergency descent after a co-pilot mistakenly turned off air-conditioning systems in a bid to conceal his e-cigarette smoke. The incident in July 2018 resulted in the deployment of passenger oxygen masks.

The flying licenses of the cockpit crew were later revoked while the flagship carrier’s Boeing 737 flights were cut by 10 percent along with a three-month safety overhaul and 50,000 yuan (US$7,098) in fines.

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