Smartphone Catches Fire on a Flight — Plane’s Fire Extinguishers Don’t Work

For quite some time every commercial flight I boarded in the U.S. made an announcement about Samsung Galaxy Note 7s catching on fire. You couldn’t bring one onboard. If you were living under a rock and still using a Note 7 darn it you’d learn about the risks if you tried to board a commercial flight.

I carry a Samsung Galaxy S7 phone. Less technically inclined folks would ask me, “isn’t that the one that catches fire?” No, no it isn’t.

That doesn’t mean Samsung phones won’t catch fire on planes though. In fact on Friday one apparently did — a Samsung Galaxy J7 — onboard a Jet Airways domestic flight from Delhi to Indore.

Copyright: boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

Just fifteen minutes into Jet Airways flight 791’s 411 mile jaunt a passenger noticed smoke coming from her carry on bag which was beneath the seat in front of her. She called for the crew to assist.

  • It turns out that she had three phones in her bag, and the Samsung J7 was smoking.

  • But the onboard fire extinguishers didn’t work according to a passenger’s report.

  • So they “put the phone in a tray of water”

  • And crew put the other phones that weren’t smoking in water too because why not.

Over the summer a Samsung J7 reportedly exploded in the hands of a 4 year old. I’ve seen other reports too. Here someone set a Samung J7 on fire just to watch it burn.

Jet Airways, while not commenting on inoperative fire extinguishers, says their “crew immediately took charge of the situation…as per the prescribed guidelines” and Samsung says they’re “in touch with relevant authorities for more information.”

It’s a good thing this happened in the passenger cabin, and that the US government didn’t force all world airlines to put electronics in checked luggage.

(HT: Live from a Lounge)

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. You can’t make this stuff up.

    And why didn’t the onboard extinguishers work? It becomes a footnote (but great color and a headline) in the story for which we likely we’ll never about again…

    Pretty pathetic when those we are “told” to respect realize their tools and (in retrospect) their subsequent actions are as clueless as the rest of us…

  2. Cell phones, tablets, notebooks, and their batteries have been a known issue since the days of Dell notebook batteries spontaneously combusting 10 years ago. It is past time to develop a way to safely transport this fire hazard on an airplane. I don’t even know how effective a fire extinguisher is on these batteries since these are out of control chemical reactions. I guess the water short circuited the phone, thereby cutting off the power to the battery and extinguishing the fire. I know my phone can get hot while charging, or if location tracking and/or Wi-Fi is on while in motion. I don’t think this happens to Apple phones as much, but with Androids, I see it more and more.
    The problem now is that we have all of these portable external batteries and cell phones and tablets. And, we have an FAA and NTSB without a clue as to what to do for an in-flight fire of this nature. If they do have a clue, have they shared it with airlines?
    Somebody better come up with some solutions before we get a knee-jerk FAA reaction banning all electronics on flights and we are stuck with on board inflight entertainment systems and reruns of the Andy Griffith show.

  3. While I appreciate the article you might want to work on the “dramatic factor”. Once again, you need to talk to the experts than “everyone on board said”. The fire extinguisher will only work for a brief bit with these types of fires. If you want drama, what the fas did was a good thing. Look up Thermal runaway. That’s what happens to these batteries. All you can do is best to keep it cool from reaching that point! A few airlines have added battery fire bags to their airplanes for this type of emergency. I know alaska airlines did!

  4. i say we all disconnect. and actually think. about real things. and not reality tv.

    to be with one’s thoughts without something “smart” thinking for us….is unknown and unthought these days.

    fyi, i’m in my mid-30’s and do not have a cell phone, much less a smartphone.

  5. Nice sales pitch for Apple products, although I don’t see Apple sinking to the “Our phones don’t explode” level.

  6. I have a business where we have dozens of fire extinguishers and quite often have to use them. It’s not uncommon for even well maintained fire extinguishers to fail. Never rely on your fire extinguishers to actually work. Glad they were able to control the situation.

  7. It’s hard to comment on the efficacy of the fire system without knowing how much smoke was actually present, they are calibrated to a certain degree to avoid nuisance tripping, so smoke in the air has to reach a particular set point before the fire system is activated.

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