There are simple events that might cause tremendous unanticipated outcomes.

Such could come from a common incident where a small and thin smartphone slipped away from its owner into a tricky corner, especially during a flight. 

A passenger on a Qantas flight to Melbourne in 2018 fell into such a situation. His phone snuggled its way down the side of the passenger seat. His natural reaction was to try and fish it out.

Soon enough, the device started to smoke and the fire developed so quickly that the crew had to subdue it with fire extinguishers, the Sun reported. The plane was later redirected to Sydney.

Hence, Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority introduced a new safety precaution for airplane passengers. The guideline said in order to avoid potential fire, smartphone users should not move their seats and instead alert cabin crew instantly if they think they lost their phone to the side of their chair.  

“Smartphones can fall into aircraft seat mechanisms and be crushed when the seat is moved,” the agency explained in a statement. “This can result in damage to the phone’s lithium battery which can cause overheating and fire.”

“… If a phone is damaged cabin crew should be alerted immediately,” the statement continued.

Lithium batteries, nonetheless, can still burst into flames from being overheated even if they are not damaged. In 2017, there were 46 lithium-ion battery fires on flights around the world, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

This August, a flight from New Orleans to Seattle was evacuated when a passenger’s Samsung Galaxy A21 suddenly heated up and started sparking after the landing. Officials of the Port of Seattle said it burned “beyond recognition.” In addition, a series of 2016 Galaxy smartphone devices were recalled because of their propensity to explode. 

Furthermore, it is no less dangerous if the phone is left in checked-in luggage. As checked-in baggage is kept in the lower hold, crew members would not quickly grasp where and how the situation has been proceeding once a fire starts.

“I would be concerned with fires in the lower hold,” said Airline pilot Patrick Smith. “…Holds are equipped with fire suppressant systems but these systems aren’t always effective against those types of fires [that come from damaged smartphone batteries].”

Lithium batteries are no longer allowed to be transported as passenger-cargo by the FAA, and airlines will only accept them as carry-on luggage.

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