United Airlines cannot turn off the “no smoking” signs on its A321neo aircraft. That should not be a problem, given that the flights they operate today have prohibited smoking for more than 30 years. But it is. The aircraft require an exemption from 14 CFR § 25.791(a) in order to operate with the indicator set to always on. It appears they do not currently have such an exemption on file with the FAA.
In a filing Monday afternoon the company requested the exemption, noting:
[T]he A321 aircraft is equipped with the lighted “No Smoking” passenger information signs software enabled to stay illuminated at all times. This supports 14 CFR §121.317(c), which states in pertinent part, that when smoking is prohibited by part 14 CFR §252, “No Smoking” signs must be illuminated during the entire flight.
United further notes that it holds similar exemptions for its B737, B757, B767, B777 aircraft, all of which “are equipped with the lighted “No Smoking” passenger information signs hardwired to stay illuminated at all times.”
Still, the A321neo type must also have the exception granted. Which it will. But it sure looks like someone missed some paperwork before these planes entered service last year. That’s a failing on both United and the FAA.
In a statement, United Airlines confirms the issue:
We are removing our five Airbus A321neo aircraft from service while we seek FAA approval for the “No Smoking” sign to remain automatically illuminated rather than operated from the cockpit. We’re working to minimize the disruption for customers and we expect to cover all of today’s A321neo flying with other aircraft types, resulting in no cancellations due to this issue today. We hope to have these aircraft flying again shortly.
There’s also a possibility this is just a coincidence on timing with the planes being pulled from service and the exemption application going in. But that seems less likely.
UPDATE: 5:48p EST 12 Feb 2024
Allegiant Airlines and Frontier Airlines have filed similar requests (Allegiant filing, Frontier filing) for their Airbus fleets within the past few days. For its part, Frontier appears to be acknowledging non-compliance with its existing fleet:
Allegiant’s application contains similar phrasing, though never explicitly mentions non-compliance.
The FAA also confirmed the issue to PaxEx.Aero, noting the Agency “is working to quickly resolve a non-safety issue that United Airlines discovered with some of its Airbus A321 Neo aircraft.” It did not offer any details on the potential for a grounding of Allegiant or Frontier aircraft.
PaxEx.Aero has also reached out to those airlines for comment.
A favor to ask while you’re here…
Did you enjoy the content? Or learn something useful? Or generally just think this is the type of story you’d like to see more of? Consider supporting the site through a donation (any amount helps). It helps keep me independent and avoiding the credit card schlock.