FAA bans fire-prone Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphones

The order goes a step beyond what most airlines have been enforcing

For weeks, airline crews have been warning passengers not to use or charge Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphones. Now the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken it a step further, banning the devices from commercial airliners entirely.

“We recognize that banning these phones from airlines will inconvenience some passengers, but the safety of all those aboard an aircraft must take priority,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We are taking this additional step because even one fire incident inflight poses a high risk of severe personal injury and puts many lives at risk.”

Samsung has recalled the phones, withdrawn them from sale, and stopped manufacturing them, but an unknown number are still in the hands of consumers and are still being used.

There have been documented instances of the phones becoming dangerously hot and even bursting into flames. A fire anywhere is dangerous, but it's a critical threat aboard airplanes.

“The fire hazard with the original Note7 and with the replacement Note7 is simply too great for anyone to risk it and not respond to this official recall,” said Elliot F. Kaye, chairman of the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission. “I would like to remind consumers once again to take advantage of the remedies offered, including a full refund. It’s the right thing to do and the safest thing to do.”

Samsung and the CPSC issued recalls for the devices on September 15, 2016 and again on October 13, 2016. On October 11, 2016, Samsung suspended the manufacture and sale of the Note7.

What to do

The FAA issued these bits of advice for travelers:

  • If passengers attempt to travel by air with their Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices, they will be denied boarding. 
  • Passengers who attempt to evade the ban by packing their phone in checked luggage are increasing the risk of a catastrophic incident.  Anyone violating the ban may be subject to criminal prosecution in addition to fines.
  • Passengers currently traveling with Samsung Galaxy Note7 phones should contact Samsung or their wireless carrier immediately to obtain information about how to return their phones and arrange for a refund or a replacement phone. 
  • If an airline representative observes that a passenger is in possession of a Samsung Note7 device prior to boarding an aircraft, the air carrier must deny boarding to the passenger unless and until the passenger divests themselves and their carry-on and checked baggage of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 device. Passengers absolutely should not pack the phones in their checked luggage.
  •  If a flight crew member identifies that a passenger is in possession of a Samsung Galaxy Note7 device while the aircraft is in flight, the crew member must instruct the passenger to power off the device, not use or charge the device while aboard the aircraft, protect the device from accidental activation, including disabling any features that may turn on the device, such as alarm clocks, and keep the device on their person and not in the overhead compartment, seat back pocket, nor in any carry-on baggage, for the duration of the flight.
  • The Samsung Galaxy Note7 device is now considered a forbidden hazardous material under the Federal Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-185), which forbid airline passengers or crew from traveling with lithium cells or batteries or portable electronic devices that are likely to generate a dangerous evolution of heat.

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