An Overheating Credit Card Reader Caused a Flight to Divert Yesterday

Yesterday morning’s Alaska Airlines Newark – Seattle flight diverted to Buffalo when a flight attendant’s credit card reader overheated.

A credit card reader on Alaska Airlines flight 17 from Newark to Seattle overheated shortly after 7 a.m. Monday.

The credit card reader, a mobile device which is used to take payment for onboard food and beverage purchases, began smoking from what appeared to be the battery compartment of the device.

This is where some readers will insert a joke about the airlines charging for so many things now that the card readers overheat.

Or perhaps that someone was using it to try to meet the minimum spend on too many cards. (Alaska Airlines co-brand cards, of course, tend to post signup bonuses before the card even arrives in the mail, no account activity required.)

AS Flyer reports that a flight attendant took the smoking card reader to the back galley of the aircraft and placed it in a trash bin while using a fire extinguisher on it. The crew decided to divert the flight.

Emergency vehicles met the Boeing 737 on the runway when it landed overweight (since it had enough fuel to fly cross country and hadn’t yet burned much or dumped fuel).

the plane was met by firefighters who inspected the galley and deemed the plane cleared to continue under its own power to the gate with passengers on board. However, the plane had to wait for approximately one hour for a gate to open up, as this was an unscheduled arrival.

At the gate, passengers were unloaded five rows at a time, to minimize the risk that the plane would tip under extra weight of fuel. Once in the terminal, the passengers were told to give the crew an hour to inspect the aircraft and determine a solution.

Since a fire extinguisher was used onboard, the plane no longer had the minimum equipment required to continue on its journey. The aircraft also required an inspection after the overweight landing. Alaska Airlines does not normally service Buffalo, and it was deemed necessary to fly another aircraft to Buffalo in order to continue the flight.

Some passengers were apparently accommodated on other airlines, despite Alaska not having a ground presence in Buffalo. Pizza was ordered for passengers, and according to AS Flyer the airline is providing $500 vouchers towards future travel to affected customers.

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. I think the more serious announcement was that the FAA wants to ban ALL lithium ion batteries in checked luggage! Which could be carried over to banning all lithium batteries on all types of aircraft which would include UPS and FedEx. Yeah, this could be really serious for many companies, not just passengers!

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