DOT May Fine Passengers with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Under New Restrictions

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a flight restriction on Samsung Galaxy Note 7, effective tomorrow, October 14, 2016, at noon ET. All Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones—both original and replacement devices—will not be allowed onboard any flights to and from the US. An FAA ban on the carriage of a specific product is unprecedented; the closest “ban,” on hoverboards last year, came from individual airlines and not the FAA.

The DOT’s statement reads, in part (emphasis mine):

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), today announced it is issuing an emergency order to ban all Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone devices from air transportation in the United States. 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. This prohibition includes all Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices. The phones also cannot be shipped as air cargo.  The ban will be effective on Saturday, October 15, 2016, at noon ET.

This ban will carry ramifications for anyone who is found to be flying with the device:

  • If passengers attempt to travel by air with their Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices, the phones may be confiscated and passengers may face fines.
  • 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.

In early September, after reports of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 overheating and “exploding,” foreign airlines began banning the use of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. The FAA echoed the trend, and issued an official statement regarding the device. At that time, passengers were urged not to use, charge, or power on the device in-flight. US airlines soon issued a systemwide ban on the use of the smartphone onboard.

Samsung officially recalled the device, and offered replacements to customers later that month. However, earlier this month, a replacement Galaxy Note 7 caught fire on a Southwest flight. After multiple incidents with replacement phones followed, Samsung halted the production of Galaxy Note 7s, and issued a recall and refund. However, even that process has become tricky, since UPS, FedEx, and the United States Postal Service have banned the phone from their aircrafts. They are also issuing restrictions on the time of day when the phones can be carried in their trucks.

Galaxy Note 7 that exploded on Southwest flight. Photo by Brian Green, from The Verge.

Galaxy Note 7 that exploded on Southwest flight. Photo by Brian Green, from The Verge.

Once again, I am not sure how this will be enforced. However, I applaud the spirit of the FAA’s action. It’s simply not worth the risk to take the phone onboard with you. I’m also glad to see airlines acting in preparation of any potential incidents; three US airlines’ have decided to equip their aircrafts with fire containment bags, designed for overheating or smoking electronic devices.

If you are still in possession of a Galaxy Note 7, all carriers and retailers are now accepting returns and offering refunds. Samsung has designed a “fireproof” box (basically a box in a box in a box) for you to return your phone, which comes with gloves and assembly instructions. Samsung will also issue a $100 bill credit at your point of purchase if you purchase another Samsung phone. You can visit Samsung’s website for more information.

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