In a highly unusual move, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Friday banned all Samsung Galaxy Note 7s from airplanes, going so far as to threaten that it will bring criminal charges or assess fines against passengers who flout the regulation.
The ban will go into effect on Saturday, October 15 at noon Eastern time. It will apply to carry-on and checked luggage, and it will be implemented on both domestic flights and all flights to and from the United States. Phones also may not be shipped as air cargo.
Regulators said criminal charges likely would only be brought against someone trying to “evade the ban” by sneaking a phone in checked luggage. A passenger caught with a Note 7 in the cabin could face a fine, and likely would have the phone confiscated.
The ban comes a little more than a month after federal authorities issued guidance recommending passengers avoid putting Note 7s in checked luggage. But in that guidance, the Federal Aviation Administration generally said it was OK to have phones in the cabin, provided they were switched off and that did not charge during flight. Airlines were charged with making a reminder announcement to passengers before every flight.
The Galaxy Note 7 has been a disaster for Samsung, which earlier this week finally announced it would stop making the phone, while refunding money to existing customers. Consumers had reported batteries in some of the phones were overheating, with some smoking or catching fire. One newsworthy incident happened on October 5, when Southwest Airlines evacuated a flight from Baltimore to Louisville when a passenger’s Note 7 started smoking before departure.
Still, speaking Thursday on Delta Air Lines’ third quarter earnings call, before the ban, Delta CEO Ed Bastian downplayed the threat somewhat.
“It is a challenge but I don’t want it to be blown out of proportion either,” he said. “We’ve had a very few single-digit number of incidents occur. We’re certainly reminding our passengers of the requirements, we’re educating our crews, we’re putting some additional safety elements on board the cabin to help mitigate a smoke situation. But it’s not fundamentally different than challenges that we’ve had for some time. We’re aware of the concerns around lithium batteries and we’re very mindful of that.”