A passenger’s mobile phone started smoking onboard a Qantas A380 today. QF94 was about 2 hours from landing in Melbourne when the incident occurred. Local media report that the incident almost caused the flight to divert to Sydney, but it continued to Melbourne after the crew consulted with the operations centre.

The phone had became caught in a seat in the Business class. The passenger then tried to free the phone themselves. In the process the phone was crushed in the seat mechanism.

Qantas told ABC News Australia the phone started “smoking” before “cabin crew contained the situation.”

News Ltd says passengers reported a burnt rubber smell during the incident. One passenger told News Ltd’s Herald Sun, “Nobody knew what was going on. The (flight attendant) was on the internal phone when two male hostesses [sic] grabbed fire extinguishers and ran up the stairs to business.”

News Ltd. also quoted a passenger as saying, “They didn’t say there was a fire, but … my friend overheard two guys talking at the baggage carousel and said the seat was completely destroyed. It was pretty scary … it panicked a few people.”

As a result Qantas has issued a reminder that passengers should call for cabin crew when electronic devices are dropped while flying. “This incident shows why we ask passengers to seek help from our cabin crew in retrieving their mobile phone,” the Qantas spokesperson told ABC.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) also echoed the message from Qantas. “Passengers must remember never to move their seat if a phone goes missing while in-flight and to always ask the aircraft cabin crew for assistance. If a phone is damaged cabin crew should be alerted immediately.”

In a previous similar incident investigated by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) in 2016, the ATSB noted the FAA’s guidelines:

“Lithium batteries are capable of ignition and subsequent explosion due to overheating. Overheating results in thermal runaway, which is a chemical reaction within the battery causing the internal temperature and pressure to rise. The result is the release of a flammable electrolyte from the battery and, in the case of disposable lithium batteries, the release of molten burning lithium.”

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