From The Indepedent newpaper, UK
Aeroflot, the Russian airline, has forced the US transport department to back down from its strict anti-smoking policy.
Last week, the Russian airline gained a waiver from the American laws which ban smoking on all international flights to and from the US – allowing the carrier to maintain its practice of allowing smoking on flights of more than three hours. To pursue its action, Aeroflot has cited smoking as a "sovereign and fundamental right under a UN charter".
Curiously, Aeroflot's UK office said last week that they had not yet heard of the ruling. But a backlash against anti-smoking appears to be under way. The decision comes hard on the heels of smokers' rights group Forest's annual awards ceremony, in which the millionaire publisher Felix Dennis won the "Smokers Champion of the Year" gong for agreeing to finance a legal action to allow smokers back on-board international flights.
Simon Clark, director of Forest, said: "Dennis told me that he'd be able to finance a class action against the US government, and he was very bullish about it."
Clark admits that he didn't hold out much hope until the Aeroflot initiative. "It may change everything," he said. "Prior to this, I thought we'd get a judicial review."
He believes that a potentially huge market for smokers is untapped by the airlines. "We have maintained for some time that if British Airways had one flight a day to New York that allowed smoking, it would be overbooked," said Clark. "The technology is there to make flights with a smoking section that disperses the air so that no one would notice. But airlines are put off by the threat of legal action."
However, there is a faint possibility of smoker-friendly charter flights. "I've been approached by an entrepreneur to start a smokers' flying club, and we're looking seriously at charter flights to destinations like Spain and Cuba, where smokers can get back the price of their flights in cheap tobacco," said Clark.
He is certain that these would succeed, although Freedom Air, a smoker-friendly airline in the US launched several years ago, quickly closed.
The Civil Aviation Authority in the UK is sanguine about the in-flight smoking issue. "We prohibit it in aircraft toilets for obvious safety reasons," said a spokesman. "Otherwise, we leave it to the airlines to make their own commercial decisions about whether to allow smoking."
I just wonder how much SU offered the US Gov't