New York: Airline passengers who try to carry Samsung Electronics Co. Note 7 smartphones on flights will have them confiscated and may face fines under an emergency US order that significantly expands restrictions on the devices linked to almost 100 incidents of overheating and fires.
The devices won’t be allowed aboard passenger or cargo aircraft even if they’ve been shut off, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday. Flight restrictions will be extended to each of the 1.9 million Note 7s sold in the US starting at noon New York time on Saturday.
“We recognise that banning these phones from airlines will inconvenience some passengers, but the safety of all those aboard an aircraft must take priority,” US. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “We are taking this additional step because even one fire incident in flight poses a high risk of severe personal injury and puts many lives at risk.”
Samsung on Tuesday said it was halting production and sales of the device following the latest spate of smoke, overheating and fire incidents in what was supposed to be a version that replaced a faulty lithium-ion battery with a safe one. The company estimates the crisis will cost it $5.3 billion in profits.
The government urged passengers not to sidestep the order. “Passengers who attempt to evade the ban by packing their phone in checked luggage are increasing the risk of a catastrophic incident,” the DOT said in a release. “Anyone violating the ban may be subject to criminal prosecution in addition to fines.”
People in the midst of travel who have the phones were urged by the government to contact Samsung or their wireless carrier “immediately” to arrange for a replacement phone.
The government now considers the Note 7s “forbidden hazardous material” under US law. Anyone observed with one of the phones will be prohibited from boarding an aircraft, the release said.
Airlines and an industry trade group were notified of the impending ban by the FAA on Friday.
Samsung is working with US officials and airlines to notify owners of the phone about the emergency order, SungIn Cho, a spokeswoman for Samsung Electronics America, said in an email.
“We have encouraged airlines to issue similar communications directly to their passengers,” Cho said. “We realise this is an inconvenience but your safety has to remain our top priority.”
The action by aviation regulators follows the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s announcement on Thursday it was almost doubling the number of Note 7 phones covered under a US government-sanctioned recall. The consumer agency has received 96 reports of overheating batteries in the US, including 23 since the first recall was announced on September 15.
At least 13 people reported being burnt by the devices and in 47 cases there was damage to property, according to the consumer agency.