Airlines and the federal government are beginning to restrict passengers from bringing Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphones aboard commercial aircraft. The new rules were created by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. The restrictions were announced Friday and go into effect starting on Saturday at noon New York time.
The government now considers the Note 7s “forbidden hazardous material” under U.S. law. The devices have been linked to almost 100 incidents of overheating and fires. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received 96 reports of overheating batteries in the devices in the U.S. In 47 cases, there was damage to property and at least 13 people reported being burned.
The first recall of the devices was announced on Sept. 15. Shortly after, regulators ordered passengers and airline crews to power off any recalled Note 7s aboard flights, forbid the devices from being charged in flight and prohibited them from checked bags. The CPSC announced on Thursday that it was taking action to almost double the number of Note 7 phones covered under a U.S. government-sanctioned recall after replacement devices showed some of the same problems.
The new rules significantly expand the restrictions on the devices. The devices are no longer allowed aboard passenger or cargo aircraft even if they’ve been shut off. The flight restrictions cover all 1.9 million Note 7s sold in the U.S. Anyone observed with one of the phones will be prohibited from boarding an aircraft. People already traveling with the devices were urged by the government to arrange for a replacement phone immediately.
Under an emergency U.S. order, passengers who try to carry the Note 7 smartphones on flights will have them confiscated and may face fines. The Department of Transportation wrote in a release, “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.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement, “We recognize that banning these phones from airlines will inconvenience some passengers, but the safety of all those aboard an aircraft must take priority.” He continued, “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.”
In the Transportation Department statement, Chairman Elliot Kaye said, “The fire hazard with the original Note 7 and with the replacement Note 7 is simply too great for anyone to risk it and not respond to this official recall.” Samsung is working with U.S. officials and airlines to notify owners of the phone about the emergency order. Samsung said in a statement last week that it was halting production and sales of the device for the foreseeable future. The company estimates the crisis will cost it $5.3 billion in profits.
American Airlines is updating announcements for passengers checking baggage, before clearing security, at airport gates and on board planes about the ban. Delta Air Lines is purchasing special containment bags for phones or other electronic devices that overheat or catch fire for some of its aircraft. Southwest Airlines Co. is in the process of selecting a vendor for similar bags. FedEx and United Parcel Service already said they wouldn’t ship the phones via planes.