Air France flight attendants rushed to put on special smoke hoods so that they could extinguish an onboard fire after a passenger’s battery pack caught fire during a flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Accra, Ghana.
The frightening incident happened on Monday, around three hours after Air France flight AF914 had departed Paris for the Ghanian capital.
A witness onboard the Airbus A330 said he started to smell an odour of burning electronics and initially started to check his own belongings before realising that a battery pack belonging to the passenger sitting in front had started to smoke.
Mathieu Paonessa said the battery pack was plugged into the seat power supply and was charging while simultaneously charging a mobile phone that was connected to the battery pack.
The passenger who owned the battery pack, however, had fallen asleep and was none the wiser that his belongings were just about to start an inflight emergency.
Mathieu has praised the “coolness” and “exemplary professionalism” of the flight attendants who rushed to equip themselves with fire fighting equipment and quickly extinguish the smoking battery pack.
Fellow passenger Marie-Cécile Zinsou also praised the aircrew, saying that a “catastrophe” had been avoided due to their “responsiveness and professionalism”.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the crew,” Zinsou said in a post on social media platform X.
Despite the high-altitude drama, the flight continued onto Accra, landing at around 6 pm on Monday evening.
Portable battery packs are powered by lithium batteries, which are sometimes prone to overheating. If a battery pack overheats, it can set off a chain reaction known as a thermal runaway, emitting smoke, sparks and fire, which can be hard to extinguish.
Airlines have seen a dramatic increase in lithium battery fires, which isn’t so surprising given the fact that so many gadgets, from mobile phones and tablets to vapes, contain lithium batteries.
The increasing risk posed by lithium batteries recently prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to suggest that passengers keep their electronic devices charged to just 30% or less because this drastically reduces the risk of a thermal runaway event.
The FAA also suggested powering off unneeded gadgets and avoiding charging devices inflight if at all possible.
In any case, many airlines prohibit passengers from charging their devices if they are unattended – including falling asleep.
In February, six passengers on a United Airlines flight were injured when a portable battery pack suddenly overheated during the flight. Four of the six people were transported to hospital, while the other two declined further medical assistance.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.