Create a free Industrial Equipment News account to continue

United Grounds Brand New Planes Over 'No Smoking' Signs

The airline grounds new planes over an old problem.

In late 2023, Airbus delivered a handful of new A321neo planes to United Airlines and it officially took to the sky, elevating with it consumer expectations for a higher standard of service for domestic flights.

That’s because Airbus upped its game – adding enhanced cabin spaces like a welcome area, extra personal space, better views, larger overhead bins – even LED lights that are said to reduce jet lag. United, apparently, is so pleased with the A321neo that it’s ordered a total of 180 of them for its fleet.

Most Read on IEN: 

So why, earlier this week, did United ground these fresh and flashy new planes? Because of an old problem – smoking.

Back in 1990, when federal regulators fully banned smoking on domestic flights, they added verbiage that required the airplane cabin’s “no smoking” signs to be operated by the flight crew.

Unfortunately there was a little paperwork hiccup: A321neo has a no smoking sign that’s lit up by a software system, much like several other modern aircraft models. In 2020, United was granted an exemption as it pertained to the rule but, it turns out, it only applied to the planes that were listed on the document when it was filed. Since the A321neo is brand spanking new, it didn’t fall under the FAA’s regulatory okay and United hadn’t filed the paperwork for it.

Thus the “no smoking” sign ultimately became a “no flying” sign, and United was forced to ground its brand new fleet of five planes.

Fortunately, it didn’t last long. The FAA agreed that United could continue to fly the aircraft while its fresh request for exemption was being processed. An FAA spokesperson told Gizmodo that the agency was working quickly to resolve this issue, especially because it was not safety-related.

More in Video