This is a non-smoking flight, but...

Domestic flights of Vietnam’s airlines and most international flights have public announcements that remind passengers of their non-smoking status, but many try to cheat the smoke detectors. Others violate the no-phone rule for unimaginable reasons

A male passenger is talking on his mobile phone aboard a plane

In-flight violations are not rare in Vietnam, especially with Vietnamese passengers, who often cite unimaginable reasons after being caught in the act.

Part 1: Petty jokes about bombs at Vietnam Airlines
Part 2: This is a non-smoking flight, but…
Part 3:
Unique occurrences at Vietnam airports
Part 4:
Oh, let me try the emergency exit!
Part 5: Bird strike another unexpected predicament for airlines

Most of the violations are for smoking and using mobile phones in flight, even though these actions warrant fines of VND500,000 (US$24) to VND1.5 million. Many think that they can cheat the smoke detectors installed in aircraft.

A male passenger once tried to show off to an attractive woman sitting next to him on a flight by turning on his mobile phone and pretending to speak to someone as if he was the boss, regardless of the fact that the plane was over 9km in the air and mobile phone waves can’t reach that high.


Huyen, an air hostess for Jetstar Pacific Airlines of Vietnam, said an experienced hostess can quickly recognize potentially troublesome passengers. Once, soon after takeoff, a passenger left his seat and hurried to the lavatory. Immediately after he slammed the toilet door, Huyen received a warning from the crew. She and a male colleague rushed to knock on the door and asked the passenger to open it.

A little surprised, he denied the hostess’ accusation that he was smoking.

“There is smoke in the lavatory,” said the hostess.

“No, I didn’t smoke. Someone else did it before I entered.”

“We received signals from the crew chief. We have a smoke detector here,” the hostess said, pointing to the ‘Smoke detector in lavatory’ sign on the door.

Huyen added that there are two sensors in every lavatory, one for smoke and the other for heat, and they can detect just one brief breath of smoke.

The smoker on the flight was fined VND750,000 (US$36.)

Nguyen Thi Nguyet, a hostess for VietJet Air, said that she has repeatedly put out lit cigarettes in a lavatory dustbin after passengers threw them there to destroy the evidence.

Smoking in a lavatory is the most common violation on flights, according to chiefs of hostesses’ teams.

Some regular air passengers prove to be sophisticated in the way they cheat hostesses. Many of them puff deeply on their cigarettes and exhale into the toilet seat, dustbin, or sick bag in an attempt to avoid the smoke detector.

Many have even argued before paying the fine that they were not informed of the no-smoking rule.  In reality, there is always a reminder about the rule before the start of every flight, and no-smoking signs are posted everywhere.

An aviation official said, “Those violators pretended to be innocent, but they were actually aware that they might be fined so they hid themselves in the lavatory to smoke.”

Nguyen Thi My Phuong, an aviation safety teacher at Vietnam Airlines, explained that the air in a plane at altitude is very dry, and objects and people become more flammable due to electrical charges.

“That’s why smoking is definitely banned in flights,” she added.

“Someone called me”

Phuong also explained why mobile phones are banned during flight, “Try leaving a mobile phone close to a monitor and call that phone. You will see the monitor’s display change because of the mobile phone waves.”

“When a plane is about to take off, land, or taxi to or from the runway, pilots rely heavily on monitors to contact and receive information from air traffic control and other ground services.

“Mobile phone waves can disrupt a pilot’s contact and badly affect the flight safety and lives of hundreds of passengers.”

But passengers still violate the safety rule, she added.

Ms. Le Nguyen Hien Trinh of Jetstar recalled a female passenger who kept on talking loudly on her phone as the plane was descending. “I saw our house clearly. It’s very clear. Did you come? Remember to bring a helmet for me!”

When a hostess asked her to turn off the phone, she said innocently, “Oh, no, they called me. I didn’t call.”

Ms. Thu Nga – vice chief of the hostesses’ team at Vietjet – told another story. Once, when a plane was at cruising altitude, a good-looking female passenger repeatedly pressed the button to call a hostess. Thu Hang went to help and was asked to remind the male passenger sitting next to her to stop talking on his mobile phone. Hang smiled and spoke loudly so that the passengers nearby could hear as well and said, “Don’t worry, you have no mobile phone waves at this height.”

Silently, the man turned off his phone and put on dark glasses to sleep, Hang recalled.

Hostess Nguyet recalled a time when she reminded a male passenger to turn off his phone, only to be reprimanded by the passenger, “You are troublesome. Why can’t I talk on my phone when the plane landed already?”

When Nguyet replied that the pilot was still working, the passenger said bluntly, “He’s working, I am working too.”


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