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Chicago-Bound United Airlines Boeing 767 Diverts to Ireland After Passenger Gets Laptop Wedged Stuck in Business Class Seat

Chicago-Bound United Airlines Boeing 767 Diverts to Ireland After Passenger Gets Laptop Wedged Stuck in Business Class Seat

a plane flying in the sky

A United Airlines flight from Zurich to Chicago O’Hare was forced to make an emergency diversion to Shannon, Ireland, on Saturday afternoon after a passenger got their laptop wedged stuck in a Business Class seat aboard the Boeing 767-300.

United Flight 12 departed Zurich as normal at around 10 am on May 19, but having already passed the west coast of Ireland on its transatlantic routing, the pilots were forced to turn back towards Shannon due to an unexpected technical issue.

After landing safely in Shanoon, engineers are understood to have been able to free the laptop, but by this point, the pilots and flight attendants had already ‘timed out’ and couldn’t legally operate the rest of the flight to Chicago.

As a result, the airline was forced to cancel the flight and is trying to reroute the 157 passengers who were onboard and who found themselves unexpectedly stuck in Ireland.

Frequent flyers are no doubt accustomed to airline safety videos imploring passengers not to move their seats if they lose their mobile phones or other gadgets powered by lithium-ion batteries within their seats.

A mobile phone or laptop stuck in a seat is an inconvenience for a passenger but moving the seat in an attempt to retrieve the item could damage the lithium battery and cause a thermal runaway event.

Lithium battery fires can cause a lot of smoke and sparks, and intense heat. Worrying, they are also pretty difficult to put out and are a pretty big cause for concern onboard an international flight.

In this case, the pilots could have continued onto Chicago and stopped anyone from moving the seat where the laptop was trapped, but should something have happened, firefighting a lithium battery fire while overflying a vast ocean with no easy diversion point would be a major risk.

In a statement, a spokesperson for United said the flight diverted to Shannon to “address a potential safety risk caused by a laptop being stuck in an inaccessible location.”

“We’re working quickly to get customers to their final destination,” the statement continued.

Last February, four people were hospitalized after suffering from smoke inhalation when a battery pack overheated and burst into flames on a United Airlines flight from San Diego.

At the time, United confirmed that “several” flight attendants were taken to hospital as a “precaution”, while two customers were treated at the scene. “Our crew acted quickly to contain the device and medical personnel met the aircraft upon arrival at the gate,” the airline said.

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