Headphones Explode and Catch Fire on Sleeping Passenger, Plane Doesn’t Divert

A woman flying Air China’s Beijing – Melbourne flight CA165 on February 19 was awoken by 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.”

Flight attendants doused the headphones with water. The “battery and its cover were both melted and stuck to the floor.”

While the woman had “a blackened face and neck and blisters on her hands,” and the cabin smelled of burned plastic, the flight apparently did not divert.

With hundreds of people bringing different things onboard planes — a variety of brands of electronics, in varying condition — I suppose I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often. Most consumer electronics are incredibly safe, and fears of lithium ion batteries likely overblown. But literally billions of passengers fly each year almost anything with the remotest of chances of happening may occur at least once.

The Australian government does blame batteries:

The transport safety bureau, which did not identify the airline involved and the brand of headphones, assessed that the lithium-ion batteries in the device likely caught fire.

While the safety agency may not be willing to identify the airline once they identify the route which is operated non-stop by only a single carrier they sort of give away the plot.

(HT: René S)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. It would be interesting to find out the brand of these headphones and whether or not they were genuine. There are a lot of knock-offs being made in China these days. Presumably they’re at greater risk of battery issues than a genuine Bose, for instance.

  2. Made in China has gotten so bad, they’ve now started using Made in PRC. Buyer beware. Made in PRC = Made in China

  3. @Tony,
    thats nothing new, PRC had been a thing for the last 10-15 years 😉
    Whats next, you gonna tell us Made in the USA can actually mean its not made in the U.S.? 😀

  4. I checked the link and she got 2nd degree burn. Blisters = 2nd degree burn. Even part of her hair was damaged. I think they should have divert that plane. She was in pain for sure.

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