Flight Safety Warning Issued After Headphone Batteries Catch Fire

Image: Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Battery-operated headphones worn by a passenger on a recent Bejing to Melbourne flight "likely caught on fire" according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, prompting a warning to be issued regarding the safety of batteries on board aircraft.

The passenger said it was around two hours into the flight when she heard a loud explosion.

"As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face," she said. "I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck. I continued to feel burning so I grabbed them off and threw them on the floor. They were sparking and had small amounts of fire."

"As I went to stamp my foot on them the flight attendants were already there with a bucket of water to pour on them. They put them into the bucket at the rear of the plane."

ATSB confirms the battery and cover were both melted and stuck to the floor of the aircraft.

The passenger, who suffered burns to the face and hand, said "People were coughing and choking the entire way home,” as the smell of melted plastic, burnt electronics and burnt hair filled the aircraft.

A statement from the ATSB has been issued reminding passengers using battery-powered devices that:

  • batteries should be kept in an approved stowage, unless in use
  • spare batteries must be in your carry-on baggage NOT checked baggage
  • if a passenger’s smart phone or other device has fallen into the seat gap, locate their device before moving powered seats
  • if a passenger cannot locate their device, they should refrain from moving their seat and immediately contact a cabin crew member

You can also find more information about travelling with batteries and portable power packs at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority website.

The make and model of the headphones are not yet known to Gizmodo, but we will update as we learn more.


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