On Monday, an Alaska Airlines flight from Newark bound for Seattle had to divert to Buffalo for an emergency landing because of smoke reported in the passenger cabin.
According to a statement from the airline, a malfunctioning credit card reader on board Flight 17, operated by a Boeing 737-900ER, started producing the smoke. A flight attendant took it to the back galley, placed the the device into a trash bin to contain it, and used a fire extinguisher to suppress any possible fire, while the flight crew declared an emergency and prepared to divert. There were no flames from the device, and the plane landed without incident at 8:15am EDT with 181 passengers and six crew members on board.
No injuries or fire damage to the aircraft were reported, though fire and emergency vehicles met the aircraft on the runway as a precaution, due to landing overweight from to a full cabin and fuel tanks for the transcontinental flight. A passenger on board the flight posted details of the diversion as it was happening on Flyertalk, an online forum for the frequent flyer community. User “autumnmist” reported that the “[f]light attendants and pilot handled it well,” and also lamented, “[s]o much for getting a solid nap in before landing in Seattle!”
We reached out to autumnmist, who asked to be identified as “J,” for more information. J, seated in Row 13, stated that the passengers were calm, mostly dozing because of the early hour and some not realizing that anything had happened until the descent started. The cabin crew announced that all passengers should be seated and prepared for landing. The captain came onto the PA system to announce that there was a small incident and that they would be landing at Buffalo out of an abundance of caution, touching down in about 17-18 minutes.