Frontier Airlines flight 1883 had departed from Orlando in Florida, destination Phoenix, Arizona, at 8.40pm on 3 February. During the climb,a passenger’s battery that was connected to a smartphone ignited. It burnt the owner, who knocked it to the floor.
Another passenger managed to pick it up and take it to the bathroom to place it in the sink, burning his hand in the process. The battery was covered with ice to try to cool it.
The pilots decided to divert to Tampa, where the Airbus A320 landed safely about 40 minutes after take-off. The two injured passengers were given treatment for their burns.
A passenger, Kim Gardner, reported on the Aviation Herald website: “Smoke was bad and it smelled awful for a little bit and then pretty much went away.
“It was pretty scary for a few minutes with all the smoke and fumes and made you realize how fast something can happen on a plane and how little control you have of things.”
Another passenger, Patrick, wrote: “I was on this flight, about 15 rows back. Cabin oxygen masks did not drop down. The event was quick with a smoke cloud toward the front passenger rows, and the lingering smell.
“When we landed in Tampa, the runway was lined with every emergency vehicle they had. Everyone deplaned after about 25 minutes. At that point, I realized that it was going to be a long night. Better than an abruptly short night.”
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows spare lithium-ion batteries to be carried in the aircraft cabin, but not checked into baggage.
In December, a passenger’s iPhone on a United Airlines flight from Barcelona to New York caught fire after it was inadvertently crushed when the seat was reclined. “The phone caught fire and was then retrieved and placed in a containment bag,” reported the FAA.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority says: “Lithium batteries are very safe, but because of their high energy, if they are not treated with care or if they are abused or have a manufacturing fault, they can catch fire.
“Batteries have been the cause of a number of fires on board aircraft and during ground handling.”