Passenger’s Stuck Laptop Caused United Airlines Flight to Get Delayed 27 Hours

Can you imagine being the laptop owner and having to fly along with all the people whose schedules you just ruined? The guilt, the shame!

Commercial air travel sucks. Even if you get good flights, fancy seats, and frequent flyer perks, you’re still subject to endless variables out of your control. Last weekend, the people onboard United Airlines flight UA12 from Zurich to Chicago experienced the latter after a stuck laptop caused them to divert, perform an unplanned landing in Ireland, remain there overnight, and ultimately land at their destination 27 hours late. Boy.

You might be wondering: “WTF?” As you may already know, devices with lithium-ion batteries pose a fire risk. If they get punctured, they can burn. This risk is taken quite seriously by airlines worldwide, mostly because a fire breaking out mid-flight is much more dangerous than one on the ground. This is why you may have heard a new blurb added to airlines’ pre-flight safety announcements, specifically asking passengers to contact a crew member if a smartphone or other electronic device is accidentally dropped or becomes stuck between the seats.

Believe it or not, crews aren’t eager to get on the floor or stick their hands between disgusting cushions to retrieve your iPhone, it’s all done out of an abundance of caution. Should you straighten or recline your seat while trying to fish your phone out, you might damage the device and pierce its battery, immediately causing a fire. This is especially true for the lie-flat seats in business-class overseas flights, where a device could get crushed by the many motors and moving parts under the seat.

Anyway, back to the poor bastards on the United flight. According to One Mile at a Time, the laptop of a passenger in business class became stuck in the seat. No details are offered as to how exactly it happened, but it’s not very hard to figure out, to be honest. It’s easy for a phone, tablet, or laptop to slip and get lodged between the seats. According to the report, the crew was unable to safely retrieve the device. Given that the flight was initiating its journey over the Atlantic Ocean, leadership decided to backtrack over 500 miles and land in Shannon, Ireland.

Shortly upon landing a ground crew member was able to safely retrieve the device, getting the flight back in the air and ready to make up for lost time. Not.

Due to the backtracking, unplanned landing, time on the ground in Shannon, and everything else that’s involved in making a diversion of this magnitude, the flight crew reached their maximum duty hours while the plane was in Ireland. Flight crews have a maximum number of hours they are allowed to work before needing time off, and once they hit that number, they’re done. Talk about things going from bad to worse for everyone.

Passengers and crew reportedly had to be put up at hotels overnight and the flight was rescheduled for Monday, May 20 at 1:30 pm. The plane spent over 24 hours in Shannon. The flight eventually took off on time the next day and arrived at Chicago O’Hare 27 hours late.

Maybe some of you are wondering how this is even possible, or maybe that a stuck laptop simply shouldn’t have caused this. Why not just leave it stuck until the plane reaches its destination? I don’t know. But considering this entire ordeal likely cost the airline well over six figures, I guess it was all done in the name of safety.

Lastly, can you imagine being that laptop owner who caused all this? The guilt, the shame! I likely would’ve taken the opportunity to explore Shannon, Ireland for a few days just to avoid being on the same plane with a couple hundred people who hate my guts. It’s totally not that person’s fault—at least not entirely—but man, it would really suck to be in that person’s shoes.

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