Exploding vape pen battery starts fire on SkyWest flight

Air passengers have been reminded yet again why lithium-ion batteries aren’t allowed inside checked baggage.

The incident? A fire on a SkyWest Airlines flight that started in an overhead bin.

Fortunately, SkyWest flight 3879 was yet to begin its journey from New York City’s LaGuardia airport to Houston, Texas, on Wednesday. But the unnerving episode was nevertheless serious enough for Delta to switch aircraft, resulting in a flight delay of several hours.

The fire was caused by a vape pen battery that overheated before igniting, SkyWest told Digital Trends.

Videos of the incident were quick to land online, with one (below) clearly showing flames inside the bin. Another (top) showed a flight attendant tackling the fire with an extinguisher as the passengers, who were boarding at the time, looked on. There were no reports of any injuries.

Battery fires

Lithium-ion batteries power pretty much every gadget you can think of, from smartphones and laptops to tablets and digital cameras … and vape pens. While most function safely and without incident, damaged or poorly made lithium-ion batteries pose a real fire risk.

Samsung’s disastrous Galaxy Note 7 is probably the most famous example of how lithium-ion batteries can go horribly wrong, but there have been numerous other times over the years where the technology has malfunctioned with serious consequences.

Just last year, we covered a story almost identical to Wednesday’s event in New York City, while in 2017 there was a shocking incident, again on a plane, where a battery exploded inside a pair of wireless headphones, causing injuries to the woman who was using them at the time. And how can we forget the troubling hoverboard fires that hit the headlines a few years ago?

While the vast majority of vape pens are safe to use, there have been cases where they’ve suddenly exploded, with some injuries even proving fatal. For those concerned about using the gadgets, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration offers some useful advice on how to manage them safely.


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