Never Leave Your Phone in This Spot When You're Flying, Experts Warn
This could be both dangerous for you and the other passengers on your flight.
On every flight, a crew member will remind passengers to put their phone into airplane mode before the plane is set to takeoff. But you shouldn't just turn your phone off and leave it be without a second thought. When you're flying, where you choose to put your device makes a huge difference. Leaving your phone in the wrong spot could be both dangerous for you and the other people on your flight, travel experts warn. Read on to find out where you should never set your phone while in the air.
Never leave your phone stuck in a plane seat during your flight.
Losing your phone while you're on a flight is a rather common occurrence. In fact, it's pretty easy to get it stuck in or between any plane seat, especially if you're sitting a higher class, according to Patrick Smith, an airline pilot and author of Ask the Pilot. "If you're in an electrically controlled lie-flat seat, of the type common in first or business class, there are a number of nooks and crannies into which your phone can slip—beyond your reach and down into the mechanisms that control the seat's various positions," Smith explains.
But leaving it stuck in your seat could be dangerous no matter if you're in coach, business, or first class. According to Alex Miller, a flight expert and founder of travel site UpgradedPoints, your device could catch on fire if it remains stuck in your seat for the duration of the flight. "The phone could overheat and be a fire hazard," he explains.
U.S. airlines have had several cases of smoke or fire due to phones being stuck in plane seats.
This is not just a hypothetical situation. As of Nov. 23, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reported 346 air travel incidents involving smoke, fire, extreme heat, or explosion due to lithium batteries, some of which were related to phones being left stuck in seats. In 2017, a man's phone caught fire on a United Airlines flight after falling into his seat. Then in 2018, a Delta Air Lines passenger had to be moved to another seat while a flight attendant removed his smoking phone from where it was wedged in his seat. Yet another United Airlines flight experienced smoke in 2019 when a passenger's phone became lodged in their seat while they were sleeping.
"To avoid this entire scenario, avoid leaving your phone near the edge of the console, from where it can easily slip or fall," Smith advised. Miller also recommends that you "always have your phone in your hands (or in another protected, known location) for take off and landing to prevent the phone from sliding away."
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If your phone gets stuck in your seat, don't try to remove it yourself.
Overheating is not the only way your phone could become a fire hazard if it's stuck in a plane seat. According to Miller, the device could also potentially catch on fire if you move or adjust your seat. Seat movement can crush your phone's lithium battery, which could also result in a fire, Smith noted.
"If you lose your phone in your plane seat, do not move the seat—many mechanical and automated seats are so powerful that they could destroy the phone," Miller added. "Even if there's no risk of fire hazard, the phone itself could be destroyed, and of course you don't want that."
Instead, alert a flight attendant if you've lost sight of your phone.
After an iPhone caught fire because it had fallen down the side of a seat on a flight from Miami, Florida, to London, England and was crushed by the passenger's seat movement, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in the U.K. sent out a warning asking passengers not to try to remove stuck phones from seats themselves. According to the AAIB, you should let the flight's cabin crew know if your phone gets lost within your seat and not try to remove it yourself.
Flight attendants are trained to retrieve phones while also minimizing risk. "It's best to tell the flight attendant, rather than running the risk of having your battery combust. They may use a pair of tongs to carefully extract the phone, ensuring that it doesn't do any damage," says Giacomo Piva, a travel expert and co-founder of Radical Storage.
This is especially pertinent if you are sitting in a seat with electrical mechanisms. "Flight attendants know how to shut off power to the seats and adjust them manually, and can remove the cushions to search for your phone," Smith adds.
You might also hear this warning come from the crew of your flight before you takeoff. "At the start of the flight, there's generally an announcement instructing passengers to seek help in case of a dropped phone," says Ludovic Chung-Sao, an Aeronautical Engineer who designs and certifies parts for aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing.