Cell phones, laptops, tablets, music players, and eReaders are quite commonplace in the United States and they are items which make flying more enjoyable! Thanks to the FAA’s new regulation passed in October 2013, many (but not all) of these electronic devices are now approved for use during ALL phases of flight, giving passengers more time to play games, watch movies, or work on their devices. As a rough estimate, I would guess that over 60% of the passengers on the domestic flights I work within the United States I see using some type of electronic device during flight. If you are one of those Candy Crush players, web surfers, or ebook readers, I would recommend considering the danger that flying poses to your personal property.

Unfortunately, flying poses some risk to your personal electronic devices, a fact which most passengers never even consider! As a flight attendant, I’ve seen and heard it all so let me share some insight into the world of flying with electronics. Listed below are my top five horror stories concerning electronic devices being stolen or damaged during airline travel.

#5  The Seatback Crusher

Leg room is getting smaller and smaller on commercial flights. When the person in front of you leans their seat back fully, you almost feel it's polite to make a formal introduction! (“Hello. My name is Jenn and you’ll be resting your head in my lap on this flight!”) 

A passenger told me how the lack of clearance between seats directly resulted in the death of his laptop. My frequent flier friend was going about his usual day, pulling out his laptop after 10,0000 feet and preparing to get some work done. He pulled down his tray table, moved his laptop to the tray table's back edge, and began typing up an important email. Moments later, he was taken by complete surprise as the person in front of him forcefully dropped his seat into the most reclined position. SNAP! The screen of the laptop caught under the seatback and literally snapped in half as the passenger’s chair came flying backwards. 

“That’s horrible!” I gasped, as the man recounted this story to me. “What could you do? Did you confront the person in front of you?”

The business traveler said his laptop was completely broken. There was no way to fix it and because it was an innocent mistake of the person sitting in front of him, there was no way for him to collect any sort of compensation for the broken device.

Lesson: Be cautious of placing your laptop on the tray table’s back edge. Your computer could get crushed!

#4 Liquid Drop Zone

On your next long flight to L.A., you might hope to get an aisle seat. That gives you a little more legroom and a chance to get up without inconveniencing others, right? Well, little did you know that the aisle seat comes at a cost. The aisle seat puts you, the passenger, directly inside the Liquid Drop Zone.

Sadly, this next story comes from personal experience. I was working in Main Cabin. I remember feeling rushed. Perhaps we were running late with our service or maybe the captain had reported choppy weather on the horizon. For whatever reason, my co-worker and I were working as quickly as possible to finish our drink service. I served a woman tea with milk and sugar. For the milk, we use a small carton, the individual serving size you might have received on a lunch tray in elementary school. I found out a second later that when dumped, that little individual serving size of milk looks like a tidal wave. As soon as I set the milk back down on the cart, my co-worker unknowingly bumped the carton with his hand as he reached for something and I watched in shocked silence as the milk carton plummeted upside down and flopped down onto the keyboard of a man’s laptop. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my career.

I wish I could say that flight attendants accidentally spilling liquids was as infrequent as a solar eclipse, but unfortunately, I’ve witnessed other spills and often, those happen on top of the aisle seat passenger’s body or property.

Lesson: Consider hiding your electronic devices under the tray table while flight attendants pass out drinks! We’re kinda clumsy sometimes.

#3 - Liquid Drop Zone, Part 2

Flight attendants are not the only ones guilty of accidentally spilling. Unfortunately, travelers also need to be wary of their seatmates! The person sitting next to you might just turn out to be a complete klutz! On more than one occasion when answering a call light, I have arrived on the scene to find a very upset passenger pulling his or her tablet or cell phone out of a pool of Diet Coke that was spilled by someone else.

Of course, extra precaution is needed with children. Adorable and cute, yes, but coordinated enough to last a three hour flight without spilling? Not usually. Add a little turbulence to the mix and something is bound to go flying!

Lesson: Keep an eye on your neighbor’s drink and be prepared to react quickly if someone’s coffee does tip over.

#2 - Thieves In Flight

PictureKeep an eye on your cell phone...
Airline travel is open to everyone, including soul-less jerks who have no moral compass. Yes, sadly, many expensive pieces of technology get stolen during flights. I have met numerous flight attendants who had their phones or tablets stolen because a passenger went rifling through their purse or bag when it was left unattended in the back galley or even in an overhead bin. I have also heard of a passenger getting up to use the lavatory and coming back to find their headphones or iPod missing. Obviously, the flight crew will do their best to help a passenger if the person suspects their item was stolen during the flight, but this can sometimes be difficult.

A fellow co-worker and her crew worked hard to retrieve a stolen item. Frankly, I am a little surprised this story didn’t make the news! A passenger seated in the last row of First Class reported that he couldn’t find his new laptop. Believing it had slid under his seat during take-off, he and the flight attendants looked everywhere, but the missing laptop was no where to be found! A little later, a passenger who sat in the first row of Main Cabin, approached my flight attendant friend in the back galley. The passenger reported that he saw the woman sitting next to him bend down after take-off, grab something from under the First Class seat, and shove it into her oversized bag-purse. 

The flight attendants questioned the woman and asked if she had found the missing laptop. She held her purse firmly in her lap and said no. The flight attendants asked if it was possible to check her purse to make sure the tablet “hadn’t accidentally slid into the bag during take-off”. The woman clutched her purse more firmly and said no, that would not be possible. After discussing the situation with the Captain, it was decided that authorities would meet the plane upon landing and question the suspected woman. Shortly before landing, the flight attendants explained to the woman what was going to happen and that she would need to remain seated so the police could talk with her upon arrival. As the flight attendant left to take her jumpseat, the woman headed straight to the bathroom, bringing her purse with her. As soon as she exited the lavatory, another flight attendant went inside, checked the trash can, and found the laptop buried inside under a mound of paper towels. Crazy, right? The woman should have been in the World’s Dumbest Criminals book. 

Lesson: While this lady wasn’t too clever in her attempted robbery, beware of your electronics because a more clever thief might be sitting near you.

#1 - Dip in the Blue Lagoon

The number one way to totally embarrass yourself and completely wreck your electronic device is to bring it to the plane’s bathroom. That’s right. Some passengers bring their cell phones to the toilet and sometimes they accidentally drop their precious electronic devices right into the murky blue belly of the crapper. Not only will your phone be completely GROSS after this, it may be impossible to retrieve. If this happens during flight, you can count on the crew giving you dirty looks and possibly making an in-flight announcement to explain WHY over one-hundred or more passengers are going to be stuck using one less bathroom for the rest of the flight!

I heard a story of how one gal dropped her cell into the toilet and how she then had the audacity to ask the flight attendant to retrieve it for her. Guess what? That’s not part of our job description! (The flight attendant made sure to inform her of this.) If you drop your new iPhone 6 into the pit, we’ll give you a pair of gloves and you are welcome to go after it yourself, but we're not sticking our hands into sewage and you probably should just consider buying a new mobile.

Lesson: When it comes to bringing your electronics in the lavatory ...umm, don’t. Please, that is so gross.

Have you or someone you know had an electronic device stolen or damaged while in-flight? Have some extra tips on how to protect your property while flying? Write me in the comments below!

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Happy Flying!



Josh Martin
08/10/2015 22:02

Good advice, Jenn! I especially like the ending of the dumb thief story. Glad to see your pen is still in hand; it's been a while!

09/30/2015 06:36

Education can make routes through intense life. It can encourage you to deal with things by the shrewdness of your insight.

10/15/2015 07:16

Have some extra tips on how to protect your property while flying? Write me in the comments below!


Technology brings the person at that point where he can not be bored because with the development of technology a person can watch movies and play games at any time and at any place specially Samsung plays a vital role in providing such activities to its users.


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    Jenn Grahams

    is a flight attendant and an aspiring writer.  She lives in the Midwest with her husband, many pet fish, and two chinchillas named Kuzco and Pancho.

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