They already are tasked with ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers during a flight. Now, flight attendants are being asked to watch out for cellphones that can catch fire on board planes.
Samsung announced a voluntary recall of the Galaxy Note7 in August after reports surfaced of the phone's the battery catching fire. Samsung has received more than 90 reports of the batteries overheating in the United States, including 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage.
Federal regulators, like the Federal Aviation Administration, began warning travelers weeks ago "not to turn on or charge these devices on board aircraft and not to stow them in any checked baggage." But responsibility for enforcing the rule falls to airlines.
The FAA has issued what is called a Safety Alert for Operators, informing airlines about the dangers of recalled lithium ion batteries.
Aviation security expert Jeff Price said it will be flight attendants who end up warning passengers and watching for the devices.
"Right now it unfortunately falls on the flight attendants, who already have a lot more to do, to police this," Price said
A spare cellphone battery caught fire on Friday on a Delta Air Lines flight from Norfolk, Virginia to Atlanta. Virginian Pilot newspaper reporter Robyn Sidersky was on the plane.
"We were sitting right near the engine, so the first thing you're thinking is 'oh my God, the engine's on fire, what are we going to do? We're in the air, we just took off,'" Sidersky said. Nobody was injured on the plane.
The Transportation Security Administration does not screen for specific types of cellphones. A TSA spokesperson referred us to the FAA for comment. The FAA would only say, "TSA is in charge of screening." But Price said it would be too much burden on TSA screeners to expect them to check every phone.
"I think TSA gets a pass on this one. It would just back up the lines," Price said.
The Association of Flight Attendants said in a statement: "If flight attendants are going to be charged with policing every single passenger's cell phone, there needs to be more flight attendants on board."