What Could Happen If You Don’t Stow Your Laptop on a Flight?

Not taking the time to make sure your laptop is properly stowed could pose a safety risk—and get you escorted off the plane.

The plane door has closed. A flight attendant asks everyone to turn off all electronics for takeoff. It’s a standard announcement, but an important one. Not stowing your laptop properly could pose a safety risk to you and other passengers. Here’s what you need to know:

What happens if you don’t stow your laptop?

If passengers don’t power down their laptops, it’s the flight attendant’s duty to directly tell them to turn it off and stow it. “Before takeoff and landing, the passenger cabin must be prepared so that in case of an emergency, evacuation can take place in the safest and fastest possible way,” a commercial pilot notes. Flight crews take the failure to abide by these safety instructions very seriously. “If the passenger doesn’t comply with a flight attendant’s request, the plane will turn around and go back to the gate,” says Susan Fogwell, a veteran flight attendant who works for a major airline. “The passenger will be asked to get off the flight.” Here are some other air travel mistakes you don’t want to make.

Why must laptops be stowed during takeoff?

Just like other items, laptops can turn into projectiles during a turbulent flight if they’re not securely stored. “Bulky objects which are loose in the cabin may easily move during an emergency, blocking the way or injuring passengers,” the pilot notes. “Laptops are no exception to this rule.” In addition, laptops present additional risk due to the high amount of power stored in their batteries, he adds. If a laptop is damaged, its battery could short-circuit and cause a fire. To stay safe on your next trip, find out the things smart travelers do before every flight.

What’s the best way to stow a laptop during flight?

Most people who plan to use their laptops once the flight staff has given the OK tend to stow them in the seat-back pocket, Fogwell says. It’s not a good idea to store your laptop under the seat in front of you or on the floor below you. The laptop could slide around on takeoff, and might not end up where you left it when you reach for it. Here are 11 things you should always have in your carry-on luggage. The best places to store your laptop during a flight? Depends on what you want to do with it. “I place my laptop in a travel tote that is snug under the seat in front of me,” Fogwell says. “For passengers that don’t plan on using their laptop, the best place to keep it stowed is in their luggage or backpack in the overhead bin.”

Another pro tip: If you do plan to use your laptop during flight, don’t bury it in your carry-on. “The seatbelt light might remain on after leveling off in the air due to turbulence,” Fogwell says. “This is not the time to get up and start digging around for a laptop that is not easily accessible in an overhead bin.” Now that you know the best way to stow your laptop on a flight, read more about the best packing tips from flight attendants.

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Jen McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.