The crew of an easyJet flight from Geneva, Switzerland, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, was forced to declare an emergency on the flight last month after an electronic cigarette that turned out to be defective suddenly exploded in the overhead storage compartment above the passenger seats.
Passengers on EasyJet flight U2-1517 heard an "explosive sound" coming from the storage compartments in the belly of the plane at 3 p.m., shortly after takeoff. Moments later, as the plane reached an altitude of 7,000 feet, the passengers noticed smoke beginning to disperse in the cabin and called the crew members for help.
When the flight attendants began to try and locate the source of the smoke, they opened the storage compartments intended for the handbags and found two burning bags there. Several passengers pulled out their bags and bravely tried to put out the fire with their bare hands.
One passenger told Swiss media: "It felt like it lasted forever, when it was only a few seconds and the fire went out quickly. But when you're on a flight and suddenly the smell of smoke passes through your throat, it's scary because we're basically 'stuck' inside a plane with no possibility to escape to breathe fresh air."
Afterwards, although the fire was successfully extinguished, the plane returned to its route and made an emergency landing at Geneva airport.
Fire sparked by faulty e-cig battery
A later investigation determined that the fire was caused by a faulty electronic cigarette battery packed in one of the bags stored in the compartment.
The flight landed safely and the emergency services that were called to the scene went up immediately to check the plane, while at the same time, the passengers were checked and no injuries were reported as a result of the incident.
The instructions for EasyJet passengers make it clear that electronic cigarettes and a maximum of two spare batteries can be brought onto the plane in hand luggage, but they must not be placed in the luggage compartment.