If you listen carefully to flight attendant announcements, especially on airplanes that have lie-flat seats, you will probably hear them warn passengers to hold on to their phones during takeoff and landing. It should be common sense but it’s not and the big reason they do it may surprise you. It’s not because they’re worried you’re going to lose your $1,000 device and lifeline.

The concern is if the device goes flying and gets lost or lodged into your seat or your neighbor’s seat, they’re very difficult to find and retrieve. What the flight attendants don’t warn you about is that when the seat reclines or you put it in the upright position, the phone might get squashed and the battery can catch fire.

I’ve seen countless passengers and flight attendants frantically searching for their phones because they weren’t paying attention and their phone went missing. All but once they were retrieved and I’ve heard flight attendants warn passengers multiple times that if they can’t find it, it could be days before they’re retrieved because mechanics need to come on board and take the seat apart.

Obviously, fire on a plane is terribly dangerous and it just happened last week, according to KOMO News in Seattle: “A passenger’s cell phone caught fire after an Alaska Airlines flight landed at the Sea-Tac International Airport Monday evening, forcing the crew to deploy evacuation slides to get everyone on board to safety. A spokesperson for Alaska Airlines said a passenger’s cell phone on flight 751 New Orleans-Seattle caught on fire. The aircraft crew used a battery containment bag to extinguish the fire, the spokesperson said. Hazy conditions in the aircraft cabin forced the crew to deploy evacuation slides to get the guests off the plane. A tweet from Sea-Tac Airport said the passengers were transported by bus to the terminal, some with minor injuries. There were no impacts to airport operations.”

I don’t know what caused the cell phone to catch fire in this case but it did remind me of the warnings I have often heard flight attendants make. Back in 2017, on a Virgin Atlantic flight from New York to London was diverted to Boston due to smoke in the cabin. According to USA Today: “Flight crew members extinguished the fire that was coming from a passenger seat, according to the Massachusetts State Police. Wires were jutting out of the area where the fire was. Dave Procopio, a spokesman for the police agency, said Friday in a statement shared with USA TODAY that the cell phone battery pack appeared to have ignited a seat cushion.”

While rare, it does happen. In fact, the FAA keeps a running record of events involving smoke, fire, extreme heat or explosion involving lithium batteries.

So, the next time you fly, make sure that your phone is secured at all times, not just during takeoff and landing, and make sure it doesn’t get stuck in your seat because you may have an extremely difficult time retrieving it or worse.


Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

2 Comments On "The Real Reason Flight Attendants Tell Passengers To Hold On To Their Phones During Takeoff and Landing"
  1. D. Shaw|

    As a flight attendant I have NEVER heard this. We want items stowed during take off and landing because if they go flying around we don’t want 1) Another passenger injured and 2) We don’t want you leaving your seat to retrieve it at the two critical stages of flight-take off and landing. We want you in your seat, belt fastened.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thanks for the feedback. I meant to add #1 which I will include now. But do you fly for an airline with big lie-flat seats? A reader commented on my FB page the other day “This happened to us on BA flight from LGW to Tampa and made emergency landing in Bermuda. Thankfully 3 hours later we were up in the air again after the removal of seat and phone! Debbie C”

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *