Airlines add fire containment bags to planes for overheating gadgets

The Galaxy Note 7 recalls have highlighted an issue that airlines collectively need to face: what happens when an electronic device overheats on an airplane. There have been an increasing number of incidents involving overheating devices during flights, according to the FAA, and the proliferation of Samsung phones prone to such events — including one that did overheat on a flight — has underscored the issue. To deal with it, some airlines are now rolling out fire containment bags on certain aircraft as a preemptive measure against possible consumer device battery failures.

Electronic devices overheating on flights are exceedingly rare, but more common than it used to be for obvious reasons. Though the FAA knows of only 129 such instances from the last 25 years, 23 of them happened in 2016, and the number is likely to continue to rise as things like smartphones, ereaders, cameras, and more become even more pervasive amongst fliers.

This year has seen more airlines rolling out fire containment devices and staff training on how to deal with such overheating devices. Earlier this year, both Alaska Air and Virgin America rolled out fire containment bags in some of their aircrafts' cabins. Joining them is Delta, which will put similar bags on 166 aircraft that fly over-water and long-haul routes; each plane will get two bags, which should be more than enough in all but the most improbable of scenarios.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Delta wants to have all of these bags on the selected planes by the end of this year, with all but regional jets getting them by the end of next year.

Still, some items particularly prone to overheating may face outright bans on aircraft. Hoverboards are one such item, having earned their banned designation after many reports of batteries overheating and catching fire. Just as troublesome are electronic cigarettes, which have caused multiple on-flight overheating incidents, and resulted in restrictions being implemented by the FAA, including banning them from checked luggage and from being charged on the plane.