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Not long ago, cabins were smokey places to be, as illustrated by the ashtray I discovered on my British Airways Club Europe flight this week. It’s hard to believe that smoking used to be quite a normal thing to do on planes.

Nowadays smoke in the cabin is an unusual and concerning event, which is why the American Airlines flight below chose to return to its departure airport as quickly as possible. The unknown cause of the smoke was never reported on, but the effect it had on passengers and cabin crew was. One member of the cabin crew was taken ill and given oxygen. Others complained of breathing difficulties.

Clearly, this incident wasn’t fatal and was most probably a result of technical issues, but it does remind me that smoke in the cabin is a concerning issue. Recently, a mobile phone battery caused a fire on a British Airways flight. This kind of issue, if it gets out of control, can require immediate evacuation.

The moral of the story is that if you are flying, always count the number of seats to the nearest emergency exit. In a smokey situation, you may not be able to see the seats or the exit row, so you need to know how many seats to feel for before you are able to exit the plane. Just in case.

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