An Australian woman suffered burns to her face and hands after her headphones caught fire during a flight to Melbourne, officials said on Wednesday as they warned about the dangers of battery-operated devices on planes.
According to reports, the passenger was listening to music on her own battery-operated headphones while she was flying from Beijing to Melbourne on February 19. She was dozing when there was a loud explosion.
"As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face," she told the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) which investigated the incident.
"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," she added.
The flight attendants rushed to help the woman and poured a bucket of water on the headphones as an immediate action. But, the battery and its cover were both melted and stuck to the floor.
A few pictures were circulated that showed the woman, who was not named, with a blackened face and neck and blisters on her hands. The passengers had to endure the smell of melted plastic, burnt electronics and burnt hair for the rest of the flight. "People were coughing and choking the entire way home," the woman added.
The transport safety bureau, which did not identify which airline was involved, assessed the case and said that the lithium-ion batteries in the device apparently caught the fire.
"As the range of products using batteries grows, the potential for in-flight issues increases," the bureau said. It also reminded the travellers that people who use battery-powered devices must kept their devices in an approved stowage unless in use.
The bureau further added that the spare batteries should be kept in carry-on luggage. Since last year, many airlines have barred all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones over fire risk concerns, following reports of exploding batteries.
In recent years, there have been several incidents involving lithium batteries. Last year, a flight that was due to leave Sydney disembarked when smoke was seen coming from a passenger's hand luggage. Later, it was found that lithium batteries had ignited.