Since about 2000, smoking has been banned on virtually all airline flights. Yet if you’ve flown recently, you’ll notice there are still illuminated “No Smoking” signs, there is a sign on the bathroom door, and below that sign is an ashtray. Why?
Have you every heard the saying “There’s always someone who doesn’t get the word”? Despite safety briefing and the signs, a few people still try to smoke. (A Cathay Pacific flight attendant says she catches somebody smoking about once every six months.) And once they light up, there has to be a safe place to extinguish a cigarette.
Not only do people still try to smoke, they try to hide their mistake in the lavatory waste bin, which of course is filled with paper. In 1973, 123 passengers died on a Rio de Janeiro to Paris flight when the pilot made an emergency landing after the cabin filled with smoke, most probably from a cigarette.
So ashtrays in bathrooms are listed by as a legal requirement for “minimum equipment” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and in 2009 a plane was grounded for not having one.
Because some people just don’t get the word.
“The Real Reason Airplanes Still Have Ashtrays” by Joseph Hincks (http://time.com/4919780/airplanes-smoking-tray-ashtrays-airlines/ )