Passenger’s Phone Crushed In British Airways Seat Causing Diversion

On Thursday a British Airways Boeing 777 en route from London Gatwick to Tampa, Florida was forced to divert to Bermuda due to a freak accident involving a mobile phone and a business class seat.

British Airways Boeing 777
An unfortunate incident involving a cell phone and a business class seat forced flight BA-2167 to divert to Bermuda. Photo: Getty Images

Flights can be forced to divert for all manner of reasons, from medical emergencies to technical faults. However, on Thursday, British Airways flight BA-2167 had to divert to Bermuda after a passenger’s cell phone got caught in a business class seat’s folding mechanism.

What happened?

The aircraft serving flight BA-2167 was a 20-year-old Boeing 777-200 registered G-VIIX. According to the Aviation Herald’s incident report, the diversion was caused by an overheating phone which had started to emit smoke.

Reports from fellow passengers aboard the flight suggest that a passenger in business class accidentally dropped his cell phone into the seat, where it became stuck. Whilst trying to retrieve the phone, he accidentally activated the folding mechanism, which trapped the phone.

Smoke then emerged from the seat, presumably after the cell phone’s battery was punctured and began to experience thermal runaway. Upon learning of the incident, the crew decided to divert to Bermuda. This aircraft was flying at FL380 when the incident occurred and it landed in Bermuda 25 minutes later.

G-STBH Boeing 777-300 British Airways
Lithium batteries have caused problems on flights numerous times in the past. Mark Harkin via Flickr

The aftermath

Upon landing in Bermuda, the aircraft was greeted by emergency services, who initially inspected the outside of the aircraft. After it taxied to the apron, passengers were ordered to evacuate the aircraft immediately and instructed to leave their hand luggage on board.

After firefighters boarded the aircraft, they were forced to remove the seat entirely in order to retrieve the phone. The phone was eventually removed from the seat mechanism, but the crew made an announcement, saying “the phone will never work again”.

In total, the aircraft stayed in Bermuda for two hours whilst ground crews checked the aircraft and retrieved the cell phone from the seat. Eventually, flight BA-2167 was able to get back in the air, arriving in Tampa after a delay of 2.5 hours.

British Airways Boeing 777
The flight arrived in Tampa, Florida 2.5 hours behind schedule. Photo: Alex Beltyukov via Wikimedia Commons

Was the passenger at fault?

Accidents happen all the time, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone whose phone hasn’t slipped out of their pocket before. In this way, there’s nothing the passenger could have done to avoid this unfortunate situation.

However, their attempt to retrieve the phone from the seat mechanism themselves without first alerting a member of staff is something many airlines warn passengers against. When it comes to items being lost inside the seat folding mechanism, there is potential for damage to both the seat and the item in question. Despite these warnings, which may or may not have been announced on this flight, it’s unlikely the airline would be able to pin responsibility for the incident and the delays it suffered squarely on the passenger.

Simple Flying has reached out to British Airways with a request for comment on Thursday’s incident. The airline has not yet been able to respond, but we will update this article once we receive more information.