As if flying weren’t stressful enough.
A passenger warning has been issued after a woman’s headphone batteries appear to have exploded on a flight from Beijing to Melbourne.
In quotes supplied by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the unnamed woman described how she was sleeping with the device on when she awoke to an explosion.
“As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face. I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck,” she said. “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.”
Although the dramatic pictures show soot on her face, the woman’s worst injury were blisters on her hand. She required no medical attention.
She tried to stamp the small fire out with her foot, and flight attendants doused the fire with a bucket of water. Eventually, the battery and cover melted and stuck to the aircraft floor. Other passengers coughed “the entire way home,” she added, thanks to the smell of melted plastic and burnt hair.
In the case of the former, fires started when cheap board manufacturers cut corners on battery safety. As for Samsung, it explained in January that manufacturing problems, including an abnormal weld spot and a battery casing that was too small, contributed to the smartphone fault.
The ATSB declined to name the headphone brand, because it was a “battery issue, not a headphone issue.”
The truth is, almost any device with a lithium-ion battery could explode. Why? Because as Mashable has written before, “bad batteries are bad.” We’re dealing with a lot of energy in a tiny package, after all.
“Lithium-ion batteries have a history of issues in relation to mobile and portable devices,” the ATSB added. “But all batteries contain stored energy and are therefore potentially risky.” Small faults can creep in during the manufacturing process, though most major companies have precautions in place, and work is underway to create even safer batteries.
There are some steps you can take: Avoid cheap electronics where possible and ensure the product has passed tests by safety certification groups, such as UL. In the meantime, the ATSB took the incident as a chance to remind passengers of a few steps to take while flying:
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.
UPDATE: March 15, 2017, 2:40 p.m. AEDT Details added from the ATSB.