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Headphones Catch Fire During Flight, Renewing Warnings About Flying With Batteries

March 15, 2017, 8:05 AM UTC

The highly charged affair of exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 batteries last year has prompted a blanket ban of the model on passenger planes. While the Note 7 is no longer a concern for airlines—because of its high recall rate—a recent incident involving headphones exploding on an Australian-bound flight has prompted regulators to remind passengers of the dos and don’ts when traveling with devices powered by lithium-ion batteries.

According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the passenger was using a pair of battery-powered headphones on a flight from Beijing to Melbourne when, around two hours into the flight, she heard an explosion.

“As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face,” she told the ATSB. “I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck.”

According to the passenger, the headphones continued to spark once she threw them on the floor so flight attendants poured water over them. Passengers then had to contend with the smell of burnt plastic and hair for the rest of the flight. “People were coughing and choking the entire way home,” she said. The woman suffered minor burns to her hands and face.

ATSB has not released the brand of headphone, but suggested that “the batteries in the device likely caught on fire.”

Flyers bringing electronic devices with them should carry spare batteries onboard and not place them in their checked bags, according to ATSB guidelines, while batteries should be properly stowed unless in use.