134 People Evacuated As Passenger’s Phone Catches Fire On Alaska Airlines Flight

Early in the Trump administration the U.S. banned electronics like laptops on board flights to the U.S. from certain locations. It was a dumb move that compromised airline safety, because when electronics in the cargo hold catch fire, that’s dangerous. When it happens in the passenger cabin it’s easy to contain.

That’s what yesterday’s Alaska Airlines flight 751 from New Orleans to Seattle reminds us as a cell phone caught fire in the cabin upon landing.

The Boeing 737-900 was waiting for a gate when a passenger’s phone lit up. Crew used a battery containment bag, something stocked as a standard item on planes, in order to contain the fire.

Since the plane hadn’t yet reached a gate, all 128 passengers and 6 crew were evacuated from the aircraft. Some sustained minor injuries like scrapes in the process. They were all bused to the terminal.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t live with my phone glued to my hand, so I’m curious. Why not just make sure all phones are turned off before boarding? Oh that’s right, people wouldn’t cooperate … they might miss a text while waiting to taxi out. Something important, like the time of your appointment at the dog groomer’s.

  2. Pretty sick of everything on the planet being politicized Gary. “Early in the Trump administration” could easily be “In 2016.” See how you can make an article about fires on planes not political? Sure some readers eat that up – one side or the other. I’m just saying that I’m tired of it.

  3. For a moment there I thought this was Biden’s botched Afghanistan with all those people on the tarmac, Gary.

  4. And this is why the FA’s are my heros. For them all in a day’s work. But in the midst of it when others don’t know what to do and panic, they do and don’t! Bless them all.

  5. @jsn55

    The batteries still can catch fire if the phones are turned off. People use phones for music and entertainment (podcasts, music videos, tv and movies, and games).

    It is a mischaracterization to highlight the laptop ban as being during the early Trump administration. Although Trump proved to be low IQ and not a fighter due to his failure to manage federal agencies/give direct orders to agency heads/give orders of action to his followers instead of stand down and do nothing, I doubt anyone in his administration was behind the policy. It likely came from career bureaucrats who of course are idiots.

    The cargo holds have smoke detectors and a fire suppression system, however, that’s not guaranteed to put out a lithium ion battery fire that can respark. It’s the right move to keep things in the cabin that can be monitored.


    Flight attendants know where the fire extinguishers and electronic device fire bags are. Don’t exaggerate their heroism. Flight attendants in the U.S. are rated worst in the world for service. They don’t keep us safe when they have a plane divert because a passenger didn’t wear a mask between sips of water.

  6. As Jackson Waterson points out this is really a nonevent because the airplanes are equipped with extinguishers and fire bags. But then he raises the mask and safety issues, which surely is a concern when a clueless President Biden mass evacuates thousands on planes with no masks, no social distancing, and no COVID tests from a Level 3 country with significant COVID cases and a low vaccination rate. Worse, the clueless President Biden distributes them around the world and on military installations before any mandatory vaccinations for the US Military. Cheers Jackson!

  7. I was on an Air China flight from PEK to YUL almost two years ago. I was awoken about halfway thru the flight by screams. I opened my eyes and saw flames coming from the first row of seats. And the front cabin was filling with smoke. Apparently a passenger’s phone was caught in the seat and when the seat moved the battery caught fire. Very scary! Anyway, the crew quickly put out the fire and disassembled parts of the seat to ensure it was out. The flight continued another 6-7 hours to our destination. Excellent response by the crew. Anyway, we weren’t close to any place to land when it occured (as far as I know). And when i first woke up and realised there was a fire on the plane old episodes of Mayday ran thru my head.

  8. Your article is another reminder of why the Samsung Galaxy Note7 cell phone is forbidden on passenger aircraft and passengers are denied boarding if they are carrying this cell phone.

    WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), today announced it is issuing an emergency order to ban all Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone devices from air transportation in the United States. Individuals who own or possess a Samsung Galaxy Note7 device may not transport the device on their person, in carry-on baggage, or in checked baggage on flights to, from, or within the United States. This prohibition includes all Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices. The phones also cannot be shipped as air cargo. The ban will be effective on Saturday, October 15, 2016, at noon ET.

    “We recognize that banning these phones from airlines will inconvenience some passengers, but the safety of all those aboard an aircraft must take priority,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We are taking this additional step because even one fire incident inflight poses a high risk of severe personal injury and puts many lives at risk.”
    Device owners have experienced documented incidents of dangerous evolution of heat with both recalled and replacement Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices. Samsung and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) acknowledged this imminent safety hazard with the company’s September 15, 2016 and October 13, 2016 recalls. Additionally, on October 11, 2016, Samsung suspended the manufacture and sale of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 device.
    “The fire hazard with the original Note7 and with the replacement Note7 is simply too great for anyone to risk it and not respond to this official recall,” said CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye. “I would like to remind consumers once again to take advantage of the remedies offered, including a full refund. It’s the right thing to do and the safest thing to do.”

    What air travelers should know

    If passengers attempt to travel by air with their Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices, they will be denied boarding.

    Passengers who attempt to evade the ban by packing their phone in checked luggage are increasing the risk of a catastrophic incident. Anyone violating the ban may be subject to criminal prosecution in addition to fines.

    Passengers currently traveling with Samsung Galaxy Note7 phones should contact Samsung or their wireless carrier immediately to obtain information about how to return their phones and arrange for a refund or a replacement phone… Samsung is also answering customers’ questions at 1-844-365-6197.
    If an airline representative observes that a passenger is in possession of a Samsung Note7 device prior to boarding an aircraft, the air carrier must deny boarding to the passenger unless and until the passenger divests themselves and their carry-on and checked baggage of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 device. Passengers absolutely should not pack the phones in their checked luggage.
    If a flight crew member identifies that a passenger is in possession of a Samsung Galaxy Note7 device while the aircraft is in flight, the crew member must instruct the passenger to power off the device, not use or charge the device while aboard the aircraft, protect the device from accidental activation, including disabling any features that may turn on the device, such as alarm clocks, and keep the device on their person and not in the overhead compartment, seat back pocket, nor in any carry-on baggage, for the duration of the flight.
    The Samsung Galaxy Note7 device is considered a forbidden hazardous material under the Federal Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-185), which forbid airline passengers or crew from traveling with lithium cells or batteries or portable electronic devices that are likely to generate a dangerous evolution of heat. PHMSA has issued a special permit to Samsung to facilitate commercial shipment of the recalled devices by ground transportation.

  9. It seems no one is turning their phones to airplane mode or off anymore! I never hear the announcements to do so any,Lee and peeps sit there texting after door closed.

  10. The Trump administration banned laptops because ISIS were gonna blow them up on planes.
    I think it’s a slightly higher safety risk than a battery catching on fire.

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