The latest development in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall saga: Three Australian airlines have banned the use of Note 7 handsets onboard their aircraft, citing safety concerns after at least 35 devices suffered battery fires or explosions. Meanwhile the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority says it's considering its options.
The Note 7's battery issues recently made the news in Australia after one local model caught fire in a hotel room, causing a reported $1,870 worth of damage.
The ban doesn't stop Note 7 owners bringing their phones onboard, but it will mean they'll need to remain switched off (and not charging) throughout the duration of the flight. Note 7s may also not be plugged into the airlines' in-flight entertainment systems, according to the report.
Even after the recall, how do you prove your Note 7 is safe?
The move puts both passengers and air crews in a difficult situation: For instance, it's not necessarily easy to tell a Note 7 apart from an S7 edge at a distance. And while the recall takes place there'll be both safe and unsafe Note 7s in the wild, meaning it'll be almost impossible for passengers to prove their device isn't a fire hazard. Even after the recall has been wrapped up, owners of new, safe Note 7s could face inconvenience when trying to use their phones in the air. (To put it another way: Even if your Note 7 is safe, the perception that it's dangerous could be a stumbling block.)
Over in the U.S., the FAA has said it's "working on guidance related to this issue," in a statement given to Gizmodo. The authority added, "if the device is recalled by the manufacturer, airline crew and passengers will not be able to bring recalled batteries or electronics that contain recalled batteries in the cabin of an aircraft, or in carry-on and checked baggage."
The consequences of an FAA ban would be far more serious for travelers.
Because of the vagaries of the way the Note 7 recall is being handled — without involvement from the Consumer Product Safety Commission — the latter point remains a grey area. But if an FAA ban did follow, it'd face the same logistical challenges as the current Aussie ban — identifying affected phones, and difficulty for passengers proving they have a "safe" unit. Naturally a ban on bringing Note 7s onto American airplanes in any capacity — even switched off in hand luggage — would have a far more serious impact on travelers.
However things unfold, it's yet more negative publicity for Samsung right as major rival Apple launches its latest iPhones.
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