The damaged laptop after it was crushed by a seat on a plane The damaged laptop after it was crushed by a seat on a plane

A laptop computer was crushed on a flight … but luckily didn’t catch fire.

Cabin crew on planes worldwide now warn passengers to alert them if any of their personal electronic devices ranging from mobile phones to laptops start to overheat or become damaged.

A passenger on a flight from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles, California, says his laptop screen was crushed when the passenger in front of him reclined his seat. The man was editing photos on his computer when the person in front of him reclined their seat, crushing his screen. 

Electronic devices such as these are powered by lithium ion batteries which can overheat and go into what’s known as thermal runaway if they are faulty or damaged. There are cases of mobile phones catching fire after being crushed in aircraft seats.

Thermal runaway happens when one cell in a battery overheats it can produce enough heat – up to 900°C (1652°F) – to cause adjacent cells to overheat. This can cause a lithium battery fire to flare repeatedly.

Incidents of thermal runaway are on the rise. There have been 268 incidents involving lithium batteries reported to the Federal Aviation Administration in the USA between 2006 and January 22, 2020.

Many airlines now carry specialist fire containment bags to minimise the risk.

AvSax are the world’s best-selling aircraft fire containment bags by far and are now on more than 15,373 aircraft operated by 80 airline companies. They have been used 32 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017 and every time they have been deployed the aircraft has been able to complete its journey safely with no need to divert or make an emergency landing.

AvSax won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the UK in 2018.