Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Evacuated After Phone Catches Fire

On August 23rd, an Alaska Airlines flight from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) to Seattle Tacoma International (SEA) experienced a cell phone fire onboard leading to the deployment of the aircraft’s evacuation slides. The 737-900ER operating flight AS751 had touched down in Seattle when the incident occurred.

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-990(ER) N472AS
The aircraft involved in the Monday evening incident was a six-year-old Boeing 737-900ER. The aircraft was registered as N479AS. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Most of the flight uneventful

Nearly the entirety of Alaska Airlines flight AS751 from New Orleans to Seattle was uneventful. The aircraft had taken off from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International at 17:59 local time, nearly 30 minutes behind schedule. Fortunately, the crew made up for lost time during the flight to Seattle, which had a duration of four hours and 39 minutes. The 737-900ER touched down in Seattle just a minute after its scheduled time.

AS751
The routine flight path of flight AS751. Photo: RadarBox.com

Incident details

After completing the flight, the Boeing 737-900ER touched down at Seattle Tacoma International at 20:38 local time. It was at this point, just after landing, when the cell phone fire took place. Alaska Airlines tells Simple Flying that the fire took place while the 737 was waiting for a gate.

“A passenger’s cell phone…overheated and began sparking,” the airline states. An Alaska spokesperson goes on to say:

“The crew acted swiftly using fire extinguishers and a battery containment bag to stop the phone from smoking. Crew members deployed the evacuation slides due to hazy conditions inside the cabin.”

The airline notes that out of the 129 passengers and six crew onboard, two guests were treated at a local area hospital.

One Mile At A Time notes that a short while later, passengers were taken to the terminal by bus, with some of the scenes posted to Twitter by KIRO7 Seattle’s Kevin Ko:

The battery containment bag

It was just over five years ago that Alaska Airlines and its regional arm, Horizon Air, outfitted their entire fleets with new fire containment bags. This gear is specially designed to contain lithium-ion batteries that have begun a process known as ‘thermal runaway.’ This process will see a battery’s heat accelerated by increased temperature, in turn releasing energy that further increases temperature. This often leads to fire and smoke.

The bags introduced by Alaska are bright red HOT-STOP ‘L’ bags, which the airline says “are made of a sturdy fire-resistant material.” These are designed to hold electronic devices like mobile phones and laptops that can sometimes overheat and catch fire.

“The bags can be shut with Velcro and heavy-duty zippers and can withstand temperatures up to 3200 degrees Fahrenheit.” -Alaska Airlines

Prior to this, Alaska notes that flight attendants had to improvise locations on the aircraft to store electronic devices that caught fire mid-flight.

Now that we live in an age where small personal electronic devices carried by each and every passenger is the norm, it’s a wise move by Alaska to invest in the purpose-made bags. Indeed, the bags came around the same time that Samsung was experiencing its Galaxy Note 7 crisis, which led to a ban on the specific model, found to be prone to overheating and catching fire.

Have you ever experienced a cell phone catching fire, whether onboard an aircraft or elsewhere? Share your experience with us by leaving a comment.

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