A jetBlue flight from Barbados was partially evacuated onto the tarmac at JFK late on Christmas Eve after a passenger’s laptop computer started to smoke in the cabin.
JetBlue flight B6-662 had just arrived in New York from Barbados and had parked up at the gate at Terminal 5 when a flight attendant noticed a ‘smoking laptop’ in the cabin.
Due to fears of a serious fire from the laptop, the aircrew ordered an emergency evacuation of the aircraft. Many of the 133 passengers onboard the Airbus A320 managed to escape into the terminal via the jetbridge while some evacuated via emergency slides onto the tarmac.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey seven of the passengers sustained minor injuries during the evacuation but no one was transported to the hospital.
A laptop computer fire can be potentially very dangerous due to the risk of ‘thermal runaway’ in the lithium-ion batteries that power these devices. Once a thermal runaway has started, it can be difficult to contain the resulting fire.
Overheated laptops can emit sparks, fire, and a lot of smoke.
Although potentially dangerous, airlines would much rather you carried lithium battery-powered devices in the cabin rather than checking them in your baggage because it’s even more difficult to contain a fire in the cargo hold.
In August 2021, an Alaska Airlines flight from New Orleans to Seattle Tacoma Airport was evacuated via emergency slides onto the tarmac shortly after landing in a similar incident when a passenger’s cellphone caught fire.
In that incident, flight attendants managed to contain the cell phone in a special fire containment bag, but an evacuation was ordered because the device had emitted so much smoke into the cabin.
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 relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.