A United passenger’s laptop battery caught fire mid-flight, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in Florida

United Airlines planes at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A United flight from Newark, New Jersey, to the Bahamas was forced to make an emergency landing in Florida after a passenger’s laptop battery caught fire.
  • A passenger on the flight credited flight attendants with controlling the situation quickly and calmly. The flight continued on to the Bahamas about an hour after the emergency landing.
  • Battery fires have become a frequent problem on flights as passengers carry more electronics when they travel.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A United flight was forced to make an emergency landing on Wednesday after a passenger’s laptop battery caught fire.

The flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Nassau, Bahamas, was above the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of Florida when the battery ignited in what the airline described as a “thermal runaway event.”

Data from flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 showed the Airbus A320 turn west towards Florida just before 10 a.m. It made an emergency landing at Daytona Beach airport in Florida about 25 minutes later.

Gary Siegel, who claimed to be a passenger on the flight, said on Twitter that the situation was handled well by the flight attendants.

“Very impressed with the way this entire flight crew handled the inflight emergency,” he said. “Prepared and calm! Bravo!”

The plane took off from Daytona and resumed its course towards Nassau about an hour after the emergency landing.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the airline credited the flight crew for handling the situation.

“Emergency personnel met the aircraft and customers remained onboard prior to the aircraft redeparting for Nassau. We appreciate the quick work of our employees on board to keep our customers and fellow employees safe.”

The spokesperson said that the crew used a thermal containment bag – a fire-resistant container that planes carry to contain battery fires – to put the fire out.

A message posted to the official Twitter account for Daytona Beach International Airport said no injuries or damage occurred during the incident.

Battery fires aboard aircraft have become increasingly problematic in recent years as passengers bring more personal electronic devices with them, such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and e-cigarettes, and e-readers.

In 2019, the US barred lithium batteries from being taken as cargo on passenger aircraft. Passengers are prohibited from including batteries in checked luggage.

There had been 268 incidents involving lithium batteries reported to the FAA between 2006 and January 22, 2020, the latest date for which data were available. There were 45 events in 2019, down slightly from 50 in 2018.