Airlines are putting fire-resistant bags on board to fight combusting phones

Just in case.
Just in case.
Image: Reuters/Kim Hong
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Battery fires continue to vex airlines, even after Samsung scrapped production of its exploding Galaxy Note 7.

Some carriers are putting up a new line of defense against burning mobile devices: bright red fire-containment bags that can withstand temperatures of 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit (1760 degrees Celsius).

In a call with investors this week, Delta Air Lines said it would add fire-resistant bags to its fleet. Delta CEO Ed Bastian specified that the bags were fully capable of containing lithium-battery fires.

Since September, the US Federal Aviation Administration and several airlines have been instructing passengers not to turn on, charge or pack in checked luggage the doomed Samsung smartphone model.

On Friday, the US Department of Transportation issued an emergency ban of any Galaxy Note7 phones on all air transport, including cargo.

But smartphone bans are nearly impossible to enforce because so many devices look so similar. Even after the Note 7 was recalled, a replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 started smoking on a Southwest Airlines flight earlier this month.

Delta has more than 900 aircraft, all of which will eventually get the bags. The first bags will go to 166 planes used on transoceanic routes and some Boeing 757s used for domestic service, the airline told The Associated Press. The rest of the fleet will be equipped next year, the airline said.

Alaska Airlines and Virgin America have also added fire-containment bags to their fleets, the AP said.

The FAA reported 23 incidents of smoke, fire, explosion or extreme heat from lithium ion batteries or unknown types through Sept. 7 in airplanes or airports. That’s up from just 16 in all of 2015 and nine in 2014, so on-board fire-containment bags may soon become as common as seatbelts.