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Exploding headphones reignite fears about batteries on planes

After the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, travellers face renewed warnings about batteries catching fire after a headphone incident on a flight to Australia.

A woman has suffered burns after her battery-powered headphones exploded on an international flight from China to Australia.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Forget exploding phones. The batteries in your headphones could be the biggest safety risk next time you fly.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau issued a safety warning this week after a woman was badly burned by a pair of battery-powered headphones that exploded while she was sleeping.

After hearing a "loud explosion" two hours into a flight from Beijing to Melbourne, the ATSB said, the woman received burns across her face, neck, lips and hand when the headphones caught fire.

"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.

"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."

The ATSB said it believes the battery in the headphones caused the fire, and added that the battery and cover had melted and were stuck to the floor of the aircraft. The bureau didn't say what handphone brand she was using.

Airlines have already been on high alert over battery safety after the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was banned from flights last year due to issues with batteries catching fire.

The ATSB has renewed safety advice, warning that spare batteries should be kept in carry-on baggage and that passengers should not shift their powered seat if they can't locate a phone, due to the risk of damaging the battery if the phone has fallen into the seat gap.

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