In an unusual move, the US aviation safety regulator today “strongly advised” passengers not to turn on or charge their Samsung new Galaxy Note 7 smartphones during flights after reports of the devices catching fire.
Following recent incidents and concerns raised by Samsung about its Galaxy Note 7 devices, the Federal Aviation Administration said it “strongly advises passengers not to turn on or charge these devices on board aircraft, and not to stow them in any checked baggage.”
The unusual warning adds to the headache for Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone maker, as it scrambles to replace millions of Note 7 phones around the world.
Some international airlines have already taken steps to stop people from using the devices on their aircraft.
Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Virgin Australia say they are telling passengers not to turn on Note 7s or charge them on flights.
It wasn’t immediately clear how major US airlines would respond to the announcement by the FAA, which has previously warned that fires caused by the type of batteries found in cellphones can be very difficult to extinguish aboard planes, CNN reported.
Delta (DAL) said in a statement that it would “comply with any directive and are studying this matter.” American (AAL) said it was “in touch with the FAA” regarding the issue.
Korean Air, the flag carrier in Samsung’s home market of South Korea, said it does not so far have any plans to restrict use of the Note 7 on its planes. It said South Korean transportation ministry officials had met with Samsung representatives and did not issue any guidance regarding the phone afterward.
Samsung said a week ago that it was halting sales of the Note 7 and would recall 2.5 million devices in 10 countries, including South Korea and the US. The company will replace them with new Note 7 phones.
Samsung was responding to dozens of complaints from customers that their phones had caught fire while charging. It said it had investigated the issue and found a problem with the batteries in a small number of Note 7 devices.
The embarrassing announcement came just two weeks after the flagship phone’s release and days ahead of the unveiling of rival Apple’s iPhone 7.
US federal transportation rules permit the lithium batteries found in cellphones and similar electronic devices to be checked or carried on board planes. But recalled or damaged batteries are forbidden.
A comprehensive US ban on using the Note 7 on airplanes could be triggered by an official recall on the product. Such a decision needs to be made by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which so far has not commented on the Samsung phone, the CNN report said.