Note7 owners told not to use phone in-flight

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Note7 owners told not to use phone in-flight

As if melting or exploding phones weren’t enough of a crisis for Samsung Electronics, the smartphone producer has encountered a new challenge that could deal another blow to Galaxy Note7 sales.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday said the Galaxy Note7 smartphone was a potential “airborne fire hazard” and urged airline passengers to avoid using the devices entirely on planes - a highly unusual move.

“In light of recent incidents and concerns” involving the smartphones, the FAA statement advised passengers “not to turn on or charge these devices” on planes and “not to stow them in any checked baggage.”

In addition, four airlines in Australia have banned any in-flight use of the smartphone maker’s latest phablet.

Qantas, its budget unit Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines’s unit Tiger Airways on Thursday prohibited passengers from using or charging the Note7 smartphones on planes, citing concerns that their batteries could explode or catch fire, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Friday.

A Samsung spokesman only said on Friday the company is discussing measures regarding the U.S. air-safety regulator’s decision.

After considering an airline ban for the Note7, Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said on Friday that it won’t go so far as to take such an extreme measure.

“We have listened to what Samsung Electronics has explained about the phone, we have yet to find the reason to bar possession of Note7 on the plane,” said a ministry official who participated in a meeting between the ministry and Samsung. He said government officials would continue to monitor the situation.

Released on Aug. 19, the Note7 was initially a big hit. Samsung received 2.5 million orders worldwide for the company’s first smartphone powered by an iris scanner and 1.4 million of them were delivered to customers worldwide at the beginning of this month.

But users of the new phablet began posting tales and photos online of their phones catching fire and melting. Samsung last Friday said it would replace Note7s with new ones and provide refund for preorders, beginning Sept. 19. Samsung said the batteries made by its affiliate Samsung SDI were problematic and temporarily halted sales of the new phone.

In the meantime, the number of reported cases of Note7 explosions has risen to 35. Even worse, some users say their garages or cars have burned down from fires caused by Note7’s flawed battery.

An American man from South Carolina is blaming the Note7 for a fire in his garage last Sunday. He told WWMB, an affiliate of CW, he plugged in his new phone to charge and left his house to pick up his two daughters. When he returned, he found his home in flames and firefighters surrounding it, he said. Fire department investigators said the fire originated near a wall outlet where the Note7 was charging.

Another man from Florida said on Facebook that his custom Jeep Grand Cherokee caught fire when he was charging the Samsung phablet in his car, five days after Samsung’s recall. He also posted photos of his car in flames. He told a Fox television affiliate that the blaze started near the charging phone, although fire officials have not determined if that was the cause of the fire.

Shares of Samsung Electronics tumbled 3.9 percent to end at 1,575,000 won ($1,431) on Friday on the news.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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