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Virgin America mid-flight panic after moron sets phone Wi-Fi hotspot to 'Samsung Galaxy Note 7'
What you really don't want to see at 20,000 feet
Updated A Virgin America flight from San Francisco to Boston was nearly diverted after someone onboard named their phone's Wi-Fi hotspot 'Samsung Galaxy Note 7'.
A passenger on Flight 358, Mapboix software developer Lucas Wojciechowski, was scanning the plane for in-flight Wi-Fi when he noticed a hotspot active that appeared to be coming from a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which have been banned from US flights because of their tendency to catch fire.
About an hour into the flight the intercom clicked on and one of the cabin crew asked that if anyone had a Note 7, they should they identify themselves. After 15 minutes and no answer, the cabin crew threatened to turn on the lights – it was 11pm by this stage – and search all passengers until they found the device.
Another 15 minutes and no phone, so now the captain came on the intercom and threatened to divert the flight to an airport in Wyoming if the owner of the banned Sammy handset didn’t confess. He pointed out that as this was a nighttime flight then landing and searching everyone would be a massive pain in the backside for everyone.
"I don't know if you've ever been diverted at 3am," Wojciechowski recounts the captain saying. "Let me tell you, it is terrible. There is nothing open in the terminal. Nothing."
Thankfully, this seemed to do the trick and shortly afterwards the captain reassured passengers that the device had been found. It wasn't one of the flammable phones, but instead another model belonging to a moron who thought it would be a good wheeze to rename their mobile hotspot and pretend to be carrying a banned handset.
"The US Department of Transportation has banned the transport of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on board all US aircraft, and Virgin America actively informs guests that they should not bring these devices onboard," a Virgin spokesman told The Reg.
"As such, when our InFlight Teammates see potential evidence of this device on board, they take it seriously. In this case, there was no such device - the safety of the passengers and crew was never in question, and no flights were cancelled or delayed as a result."
The crew's consternation is understandable. Not only do US transport officials take a dim view of Note 7 handsets on aircraft (particularly as there has already been an in-aircraft fire) but an in-flight blaze is many pilots' worst nightmare – barring a sudden reduction in the number of wings.
While Virgin America declined to say if any action had been taken against the unfunny prankster, your humble hack hopes they make him walk home next time. ®
Updated to add
It is possible Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge phones call themselves Note 7s in their Wi-Fi network names – meaning it may have been a software bug rather than prank.