It is all fun and games until somebody gets hurt, right? Luckily no one was injured during a Virgin America flight on Tuesday when the crew suspected one of the passengers of bringing a recalled Galaxy Note 7 on board the plane. There was no Galaxy Note 7 handset to be found, only a wireless SSID (Service Set Identifier) indicating the presence of one, presumably as a prank gone wrong.
Back in October, the U.S. Department of Transportation banned Galaxy Note 7 devices from flights going into or flying out of the United States after multiple reports of the troubled handset overheating and catching on fire. That includes carry-on and checked baggage.
“We recognize that banning these phones from airlines will inconvenience some passengers, but the safety of all those aboard an aircraft must take priority,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at the time. “We are taking this additional step because even one fire incident inflight poses a high risk of severe personal injury and puts many lives at risk.”
A passenger on board Virgin America flight 358 from San Francisco to Boston must have thought that airlines would not take the ban too seriously. Whatever his excuse, he exercised poor judgement when he decided to name the SSID on his device “Samsung Galaxy Note7_1097,” which caught the attention of other passengers and the flight’s crew.
After being notified of the situation, the captain of the plane asked that any passenger with a Galaxy Note 7 to press their call button. Nobody did. A message over the flight’s intercom let the passengers know that the request was not a joke, and that if nobody stepps forward, everyone’s bag will be searched until the phone is found.
“This is the captain speaking. Apparently the plane is going to have to get diverted and searched if nobody fesses up soon,” the captain added.
The owner came forward at that point and fessed up that it was not actually a Galaxy Note 7, just an SSID name change. His shenanigan caused another flight to be cancelled and it took staff two hours to sort out itineraries of everyone affected. It is not known of the culprit faced any repercussions.
To those who think Virgin America may have overreacted, there is at least one known incident of a Galaxy Note 7 catching fire on an airplane. It happened two and a half months ago when a powered down Galaxy Note 7 handset began billowing what the owner described as “thick gray-green angry smoke” on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 that was scheduled to travel from Louisville to Baltimore. He had dropped the device at that point, which burned the plane’s carpet and charred the subfloor undernearth.