Virgin Atlantic has banned the use of battery-powered Apple or Dell laptop computers on international flights after recalls over fears they could overheat and catch fire.

"Customers wanting to use an Apple or Dell laptop on board can only do so if the battery is removed," says an advisory on Virgin Atlantic's website.

The website also said thaton flights where no in-seat power is provided, "the use of Apple and Dell laptops is prohibited."

Virgin is the third airline to ban the use of the Apple and Dell computers on battery power. Qantas and Korean Air both issued bans on the laptops in August.

The Lithium-ion laptop batteries in question were made by Sony. Dell recalled 4.1 million laptop batteries last month, a move followed days later by Apple's recall of 1.8 million of the power cells.

Apple says it has received nine reports of batteries overheating, including reports of two customers who suffered minor burns from overheated computers.

The company has also received reports of minor property damage. No serious injuries have been reported.

The batteries in Dell notebooks are in machines shipped between April 1, 2004, and July 18 of this year.

The company said in a statement that the recall would affect approximately 95,000 battery packs sold to customers in Canada.

"In rare cases, a short-circuit could cause the battery to overheat, causing a risk of smoke and [or] fire," said Ira Williams, a Dell spokesman, when the recall was announced Aug. 24.

Battery packs contain cells of rolled up metal strips. Sony said that during production, crimping the rolls left tiny shards of metal loose in the cells, and some of those shards can cause batteries to short-circuit.

Batteries powering Sony's Vaio laptops don't have the same problems, according to the Tokyo-based manufacturer.

The recalls are the two biggest in computer and electronics manufacturing history, said the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.