Safety warning after passenger's headphones explode on Beijing to Melbourne flight

An airline passenger has spoken of her horror when her battery-operated headphones exploded on her face mid-flight.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued a warning after the woman, travelling from Beijing to Melbourne, was left with a burnt face, hand and burnt hair.

The woman, whose identity has been concealed by the ATSB, said she was listening to music on a pair of battery-operated headphones when she fell asleep about two hours into the flight.

She then heard a loud explosion.

"As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face," she said.

"I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck.

"I continued to feel burning so I grabbed them off and threw them on the floor. They were sparking and had small amounts of fire."

Flight attendants quickly poured a bucket of water on the headphones but the battery and cover were melted and stuck to the floor of the aircraft.

Photos show her hair and eyebrows singed and filled with black soot.

For the remainder of the flight, passengers endured the smell of melted plastic, burnt electronics and burnt hair.

"People were coughing and choking the entire way home," the passenger said.

In its safety warning, the ATSB said the potential for in-flight issues is increasing as the range of products using batteries grows.

Battery-powered devices should be stowed when not in use and spare batteries must be kept in carry-on baggage, not checked baggage, the warning said.

Fairfax Media has requested further details from the ATSB including the make and model of the headphones and battery.

The incident follows several incidents of Samsung Galaxy phones and hoverboards exploding and being banned on planes.

Samsung recalled their Galaxy Note 7s due to faulty batteries that were catching fire.

In another incident, a phone battery caused a fire on a Qantas plane last year when the phone became stuck in a reclining chair and was crushed.

Lithium ion batteries, commonly used in phones and handheld electronics because they charge quickly and are compact, use highly flammable liquid that can explode if a battery short circuits.

Poorly constructed or older model lithium batteries are more likely to short circuit however tech website Gizmodo said over-heating and over-charging can also potentially cause an explosion in a 'perfect' battery.

The chance of your device exploding is "something like one in 10 million," Ken Boyce, from American safety consulting and certification company UL, told Gizmodo.

The Civil Aviation and Safety Authority has more information about travelling safely with batteries and portable power packs.