How American Airlines Is Prepared In Case Your Cell Phone Catches Fire

A year ago a phone charger caught fire on board an Aeroflot flight.

Days later a power brick caught fire in the overhead bin of a China Southern flight. A flight attendant doused it with water.

Then over the summer a cell phone charger caught fire on a Ryanair flight.

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Here’s the aircraft being evacuated.

While it doesn’t happen often, lithium ion batteries catch fire. The fire can usually be contained in the passenger cabin. It’s harder to deal with as cargo, which is why airlines don’t allow these sorts of batteries to travel in checked luggage. (It’s why a generation of ‘smart’ suitcases have been banned even as carry on bags, since there’s always the chance a carry on might have to be checked.)

As a result of this risk American Airlines now boards fire containment bags and heat resistant gloves on all of their aircraft. That way when electronic devices catch fire they can deal with it.

  • They’re supposed to store the fire containment bag in a metal cart in the aft galley, to be retrieved when the aircraft lands.
  • If your device goes into ‘thermal runaway’ you should fully expect that it will be confiscated. If it ‘just’ overheats it may be returned to you.
  • Instructions for crew are to ‘hand over the customer’ to the person who meets the flight after an inflight electronics fire.

When the Department of Homeland Security insisted that laptops and other electronics be checked if they were traveling on flights from certain destinations, it was the height of insanity — tempting fate with the lives of everyone on board. (The ban was also full of holes, accomplishing little actual security in exchange for creating real risk.)

It’s good to know though that as long as electronics are permitted in the passenger cabin, American Airlines is ready.

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, 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. Alaska put these kits on all their mainline aircraft shortly after the first few cases of phones ‘asploding.

    I’m somewhat surprised it took AA this long.

    Also, dumping water on a lithium fire is spectacularly stupid.

  2. Pretty sure all major airlines in the US have these. – Even the regional I used to work for had them on board.

  3. Never a truer word spoken in regard to your comments about the requirement to put electronics in checked luggage. Sheer lunacy.

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