A British Airways Airbus A380-800, registration G-XLEK performing flight BA-208 (dep Jan 20th) from Miami,FL (USA) to London Heathrow,EN (UK), was enroute over the Atlantic Ocean when a passenger travelling on the upper deck and carrying his mobile phone, a Samsung Note 4, in a pocket of his shirt, felt his smartphone was becoming hot, took it out of the pocket, opened the battery cover and saw the battery catching fire. The passenger dropped smartphone and battery onto the floor, where the battery burned into the carpet. Thick smoke developed. The passenger poured some Coke over the smartphone, cabin crew quickly arrived and put the battery into a bucket of water, then secured it in a secure container. The crew continued to London for a safe landing.
The aircraft remained on the ground in London for about 4:50 hours, then departed for flight BA-209 to San Francisco.
Two passengers reported independently about the occurrence, each observed different details of the summarizing narrative above.
Lithium-Ion batteries have been a big safety problem for airlines worldwide, with even the smallest battery being a safety risk. In June 2018 a tiny e-cigarette battery caught fire in the cargo hold of a WestJet flight. WestJet Flight 113 took off for Vancouver with 53 passengers on board just after 6:30 a.m. on June 14, 2018. It had reached an elevation of 9,000 feet when a fire warning light came on. Flight crew followed the cargo fire procedure, remotely discharging a fire extinguishing bottle in the cargo hold, then declaring a mayday and turning back to Calgary.
Airlines have policies in place where all lithium-ion batteries are not allowed to travel in checked luggage, but passengers are still ignoring these messages and baggage screening isn’t picking them all up. The Samsung Note 7 was notorious for overheating and burning itself, caused by a battery issue. All of the aviation sectors had to ensure these phones were not onboard any aircraft, with even General Aviation pilots having to include it in their safety briefing to passengers.