Vape battery catches fire in aircraft: 'It was a case of ignorance'

File photo.
Reuters

PETALING JAYA - The incident of a passenger's vape battery catching fire inside an aircraft has been blown out of proportion, said Malaysian Organisation of Vape Entity (MOVE) president Samsul Kamal Ariffin.

It could have been avoided if he had basic knowledge on how to handle the equipment, he said.

"We believe it was a case of ignorance," he said yesterday.

A passenger on Malindo Air, which was flying from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, suffered burns on the thighs and left hand when the e-cigarette battery inside a case placed on his lap suddenly burst into flames.

He was treated by a doctor who was also a passenger on board. The crew put out the fire and the aircraft landed safely that night.

Samsul said there were two types of e-cigarette batteries - lithium-ion and lipo.

"Rechargeable batteries such as lithium-ion should be detached from the device as they can easily explode.

"A lipo battery is a built-in battery. It is more stable. What you need to do is to just switch it off and put it in sleep mode, just like any other battery operated devices," said Samsul.

It is believed that the one which exploded on Saturday was a lithium-ion battery.

Samsul said MOVE, which supports regulation of the vape industry in Malaysia, said the case underscored the NGO's push for regulations.

"When things like this happen, although they are isolated, they get blown out of proportion as vape has become a very hot topic among the public," he said.

Malaysia Airports Berhad said it had imposed additional safety precaution following the incident.

"We have implemented an additional safety precaution, effective immediately, whereby passengers will be asked to detach the batteries from the equipment," it said in a statement yesterday.

Malindo Air said the airline would initiate discussion with the airport authorities to review security procedures.

"We would like to remind passengers not to carry spare batteries on board, or connect any portable electronic device to a power source during flight, or leave any portable electronic devices unattended," it said in a statement.

Malindo Air said it had lodged a police report and had forwarded the case to the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).

DCA flight operations director Datuk Yahaya Abdul Rahman agreed that the case was isolated but still dangerous.

"Since this involves safety issues, we are looking at imposing stricter regulations," he said.

According to International Civil Aviation Organisation, smoking devices are prohibited to be checked in as baggage but they are allowed to be hand-carried on board.