A Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas Love Field to Fort Lauderdale was forced to divert to Pensacola on Wednesday when a couple onboard the plane started arguing and then caused an inflight emergency when their cell phone was smashed and it started emitting smoke in the cabin.
Southwest flight WN4699 landed without further incident in Pensacola where the couple were met by local law enforcement and removed from the plane. The Boeing 737 departed shortly afterwards and made it to Fort Lauderdale around 90 minutes late.
Witnesses claim a man and woman who were traveling together started arguing during the flight and the man became physically abusive towards his female companion. The man allegedly slapped his cell phone against the woman’s body and it started to smoudler and emit smoke.
Another passenger shouted “FIRE” and flight attendants rushed to the scene. The cell phone was placed in a special battery containment bag which is designed to prevent a potentially dangerous lithium battery thermal runaway event.
Emergency services initially reported a fire on the flight deck according to local media but Southwest later confirmed this wasn’t the case and there were no injuries.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Southwest said: “A Southwest flight operating from Dallas Love Field safely diverted to Pensacola International Airport on Wednesday afternoon due to a dispute between two passengers traveling together that resulted in a broken cell phone which smouldered and was placed into a battery containment bag by our Flight Attendants.”
“After the two passengers exited the aircraft in Pensacola, the flight continued to Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport. We appreciate the patience, cooperation, and support of the Customers onboard today.”
Cell phone fires onboard flights have become relatively commonplace in recent years – especially when a cell phone gets crushed in the moving parts of a passenger seat. Flight attendants are trained to isolate the device immediately, either in a special containment bag or doused in water, to prevent thermal runaway.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.