Passengers on a China Southern Airlines domestic flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai on February 25, 2018, were forced to disembark when a portable power bank caught fire in an overhead compartment of the aircraft.
Channel News Asia reported that passengers were in the process of boarding Flight CZ3539 when smoke appeared in the cabin and fire was seen coming from a passenger’s bag stowed in an overhead compartment.
According to a statement by the airline, security and fire officials rushed to the scene and the fire was put out before further damage could be caused. The airline also said there were no injuries and that the Boeing 777-300ER wide-body aircraft sustained only minor cabin damage.
Preliminary investigations carried out by the police with the assistance from the passenger who owned the bag showed that the power bank, a portable mobile charger most likely powered by a lithium-ion battery, was not being used when it caught fire, Aerospace Technology writes.
The incident took place at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN). The passengers were evacuated from the plane and eventually boarded on another aircraft which left three hours after the scheduled departure time for Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA), The New York Post reports.
Lithium-ion batteries – used in cell phones, laptops and power banks – have been known to pose fire risks due to overheating. These batteries have been banned from being shipped as cargo on passenger aircraft by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in February, 2016.
Although the batteries are banned to be shipped as cargo – in checked luggage – they are allowed in personal electronic devices – in carry-on luggage – by passengers or crew, as long as they are turned off.
Some U.S. airlines have banned smart luggage – suitcases with USB charging stations, GPS tracking, built-in hot spots, and other high-tech features – on their flights because of the potential risk posed by non-removable lithium-ion batteries as of January 15, 2018, The Business Insider reported.
Earlier, in March, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that passengers flying onboard U.S.-bound flights from airports in certain Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa are banned from carrying large electronic devices – including laptops – in hand luggage. The controversial ban was lifted in July, 2017.