Tuesday, June 18, 2024

United Flight Diverts To Ireland After Business Class Passenger’s Laptop Gets Stuck – View from the Wing

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United Flight Diverts To Ireland After Business Class Passenger’s Laptop Gets Stuck

United Airlines flight 12 from Zurich to Chicago diverted to Shannon, Ireland on Sunday when a passenger’s laptop got stuck in a business class seat.

The Boeing 767-300 was carrying 157 passengers and 10 crew. Crew couldn’t get the laptop out, so the pilot decided to land – not because they wanted the passenger to be able to work inflight, but because lithium ion batteries can catch fire, and if that happened and the laptop was inaccessible over the Atlantic it would be a significant safety hazard.

United Airlines Business Class Seat

The flight took off around 10 a.m., and had already proceeded past Ireland when they turned around. The aircraft was on the ground at 1:42 p.m. Fire crews stood by due to the plane’s overweight landing (not having burned the usual amount of fuel yet inflight).

Engineers boarded the aircraft in an attempt to retrieve the laptop. They were not successful, and so staff had to remove cargo from a forward hold to access the laptop from beneath the passenger cabin.

While they’d hoped to be on the ground for just an hour, the flight was eventually cancelled when the crew timed out, and passengers were provided hotel rooms for the night.

According to United Airlines,

United flight 12 scheduled from Zurich to Chicago landed safely in Shannon to address a potential safety risk caused by a laptop being stuck in an inaccessible location. We’re working quickly to get customers to their final destination.

Laptop Keeps Me Productive Inflight

Lithium batteries, which power laptops and other electronic devices, pose a significant risk if damaged, as they can overheat and catch fire. While there are procedures to manage these inflight fires, that’s difficult if unable to reach the device that’s the source of the blaze.

In 2018, a mobile phone that had fallen between seats on a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles caught fire mid-flight, though the cabin crew managed to extinguish it. Data from the Federal Aviation Administration finds at least 68 verified lithium battery incidents on planes between March 2006 and February 2024, with 14 occurring in 2023.

Airlines frequently instruct passengers not to try to retrieve their electronic devices themselves if they get trapped in a seat. They don’t want to damage the seats and they don’t want the devices damaged or stuck eitheir due to fire and diversion risk.

I once fell asleep not fully in bed mode in ANA first class. I’d been working on my laptop and it was beside me. Waking up groggy, I moved the seat but the laptop was caught. Not fully realizing what was happening, I kept moving the seat – and I cracked the screen case. Fortunately the laptop was still useable for the rest of the trip!

(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

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