Exploding phones causing U.S. airlines to carry fire-containment bags

Bruce Brown
Exploding phones causing U.S. airlines to carry fire-containment bags
After several Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones exploded, smoldered, or caught fire, airlines are quickly ramping up plans to carry fire-containment bags. Alaska Airlines and Virgin America have already added them and Delta is next in line.

Airlines aren’t messing around with the threat of exploding phones. Smoking, burning, and exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phablets have added urgency to concerns about mobile devices with lithium-ion batteries. Two U.S. airlines have already added fire-containment bags with a third planning to add them to all planes by year’s end according to The Guardian.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines was the first to add fire-containment bags. All 219 of its planes were equipped with the bags in May. Virgin America also has fire-containment bags on its approximately 60 aircraft. Atlanta’s Delta Airlines is going to be adding the bags to all of its 900-plus planes. Delta will equip 166 planes that make transoceanic flights and its Boeing 757s used for domestic flights first. By the end of the year, those planes will have two bags each.

Related: The FAA may ban Samsung’s exploding Galaxy Note 7 from U.S. flights

According to Delta communications manager Morgan Durrant, “This has been on the to-do list, but has been accelerated by recent events.”

Other airlines that do not yet have the bags, including American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines, have specialized crew training and high-energy fire suppression extinguishers. Airlines are not taking the threat of exploding phones lightly. In early October a replacement Note 7 started smoldering during a Southwest flight from Louisville, Kentucky, to Baltimore.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) may ban Galaxy Note 7s from U.S. flights. The FAA has already warned passengers not to use or charge them on board or put them in checked luggage.

Earlier this year, according to The Guardian the United Nations aviation agency, the International Civil Aviation Authority banned cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger flights, though allowing them on cargo planes. A paper from a plane maker’s group stated in 2015 that airliner firefighting systems were not able to “suppress or extinguish a fire involving significant quantities of lithium batteries.”