Crushed cellphone catches fire on flight

The charred remains of an unidentified cellphone which caught fire during a Qantas flight in June.
The charred remains of an unidentified cellphone which caught fire during a Qantas flight in June.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SYDNEY • Australian carrier Qantas has warned of the danger of mobile phones being crushed in reclinable plane seats and catching fire after one ignited during a US flight, a safety report said yesterday.

The findings came just weeks after Qantas and its domestic competitor Virgin Australia, as well as other international airlines, instructed passengers not to use or charge Samsung's Galaxy Note7 during flights after faulty lithium-ion batteries in the new smartphone caused some handsets to explode.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau report said the phone, without revealing the brand, was crushed in a Qantas business class passenger's seat on a Los Angeles- New York flight on June 21, and "immediately began hissing and emitting smoke".

"Moments later, the PED (personal electronic device) ignited... when the cabin crew members arrived at seat 3A, they observed an orange glow emanating from the seat," the report said.

A crew member put out the glow with a fire extinguisher, it said.

A Qantas spokesman said the airline was telling customers to keep track of their cellphone while seated and to alert flight crew if they lose it down the side, instead of moving their seats.

"When the seat moves, that's when the phone may get crushed," the spokesman said, adding that the seats are fire-retardant.

"Our crew are trained to deal with this scenario and they've done a great job on the odd occasion where we've had a phone break and start to smoulder."

South Korean smartphone maker Samsung earlier this month suspended sales of the Note7 "phablet" and recalled 2.5 million units.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Crushed cellphone catches fire on flight'. Print Edition | Subscribe