With the banning of Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphones on all flights in the United States by the Federal Aviation Administration, travelers who own the discontinued handsets now have to make arrangements to replace their phones before their trips or leave the recalled, fire-prone devices behind when they have to travel.
The FAA ban on the Note7 on all aircraft in the United States came in an emergency order by the agency following a federal and global recall of the handsets, which have been the source of more than 100 fires and explosions caused by defects in their nonremovable lithium-ion batteries. The fires occurred in the original Note7 devices that were released to the market in August and then also apparently have been occurring in the Note7 smartphones that were distributed starting Sept. 21 to replace the defective original units.
Because of the propensity of the Note7 phone to overheat and catch fire without warning, the FAA issued its ban to prevent the possibility of dangerous fires aboard aircraft. While the Note7 has been recalled, there are still owners who have the phones in their possession and who have not yet returned the devices for refunds or alternative models.
As part of the flight ban for the Note7, the FAA, along with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), ordered that all "individuals who own or possess a Samsung Galaxy Note7 device may not transport the device on their person, in carry-on baggage, or in checked baggage on flights to, from, or within the United States," according to the order, which was announced on Oct. 14. The devices can also not be shipped by air cargo in the United States.
What all of this means is that if a traveler still has a Note7 and hasn't turned it in for replacement or refund, that traveler is not boarding a flight with the device in his or her possession, according to the FAA.
"We recognize that banning these phones from airlines will inconvenience some passengers, but the safety of all those aboard an aircraft must take priority," Anthony Foxx, the DOT secretary, said in a statement. "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."
Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw Research, told eWEEK that the FAA ban of the Note7 is more bad news for Samsung related to the defective smartphones, "but at this point when a total recall is underway this will hopefully also bring home forcefully to people how serious the situation is, and hopefully accelerate the process of people returning their devices."
Meanwhile, though, Note7 users will face a quandary if they need to fly before they have swapped out their recalled devices, he added. "It's going to be tough for people that have a Note7 and find themselves faced with the choice of leaving it behind or not being able to travel."
Another analyst, Dan Olds of Gabriel Consulting group, said the FAA's action extended an earlier FAA advisory that originally asked Note7 users only to power down their phones for flight. "Now you can't bring it aboard, you can't bring it close to the plane and you will be denied boarding if you do. That's a significant ramping up from their original position about the phone. It's now considered a forbidden hazardous material."
For Samsung, the effect that the FAA ban has on the company is "profound," said Olds. "The big thing here is not that they had a defective phone that catches on fire, but it's that they brought out two models of this phone [due to the recall] and it still had problems. It should be a cautionary tale to other vendors—manufacturers need to double down on quality assurance."