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Headphones burn woman’s face, hands on Melb flight

Inflight incidents involving batteries could grow with increased usage

Noise-cancelling headphones are a common sight on flights these days, and hardly what anyone would deem hazardous gadgets.


But battery-operated devices on planes are in the spotlight after a woman travelling from Beijing to Melbourne suffered burns to her face and hands when her headphones caught fire and melted.



According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the passenger had fallen asleep whilst listening to music on her own battery-operated headphones, when around two hours into the flight a loud explosion woke her.


“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.”


With the battery and cover melted and stuck to the floor, cabin crew put the charred headphones into a bucket at the rear of the plane.



While flight attendants kept close check on the passenger, other flyers copped the smell of melted plastic, burnt electronics and burnt hair.


“People were coughing and choking the entire way home,” the passenger said.


With its assessment concluding that the batteries in the device likely caught on fire, the ATSB urged passengers travelling with battery-powered devices to keep them in approved stowage when not in use, and keep spare batteries in carry-on bags and not checked luggage.


It also recommended not moving powered seats before locating any devices that may have fallen into a seat gap, and to contact a crew member in the event they cannot find a device.


Do you travel with battery-powered devices? What precautions do you take?


Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 15 March 2017

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