Face burnt as headphone battery catches fire on flight

A woman has suffered burns to her face after her battery-powered headphones caught fire on a long-haul flight.

The incident, which happened on a plane travelling from Beijing to Melbourne, prompted warnings about the dangers of battery-operated devices.

The woman, who has not been identified, said she heard a loud explosion about two hours into the flight from China to Australia.

The Australia Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said the lithium-ion batteries in the passenger's personal headset likely caught fire but it did not specify the brand of the device.

"As the range of products using batteries grows, the potential for in-flight issues increases," it said in the report.

It also published the following guidelines:

  • 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.

There have been a number of battery related incidents on planes in recent years. In October, an e-cigarette battery set fire to an air passenger's luggage while it was being loaded into the hold of a United Airlines flight, according to reports.

And in May, on a flight from Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth, Qantas cabin crew were alerted to the ''presence of smoke in the cabin''. The ATSB noted the source of the smoke was traced to seat 19F, in business class – to ''a crushed personal electronic device [a phone] wedged tightly in the seat mechanism''.