U.S. air-safety regulators have taken the unusual step of singling out Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone as a potential airborne fire hazard, urging passengers to avoid using the devices entirely on board airliners, dealing another blow to the technology giant’s smartphone recovery efforts.
In a brief but strongly worded statement released late Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration said that “in light of recent incidents and concerns” involving the smartphones, the agency “strongly advises passengers not to turn on or charge these devices” on planes and “not to stow them in any checked baggage.”
Identifying a specific brand or model as a potential hazard is a highly unusual move for the FAA, though agency officials previously issued warnings about the overall dangers of checking any kind of cellphones, other battery-powered electronic devices or spare batteries in the holds of airliners. The lithium-ion batteries that typically power such mobile devices can short-circuit or otherwise heat up and cause fires.
The statement comes less than a week after Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker by shipments, announced a global recall and replacement program for millions of Galaxy Note 7 devices because of batteries exploding or catching fire.
The FAA’s statement didn’t cite any specific incidents. Samsung said Friday it was discussing the FAA move internally and declined to comment further.
South Korea’s air-safety regulator said it has no plans to ban Galaxy Note 7 devices on airlines or take measures to prevent passengers from using or charging the device during flights.
Shares in the company fell 2.7% following the news.
Samsung has said it shipped 2.5 million units of the Galaxy Note 7 since its launch on Aug. 19. In the U.S., the phone has a suggested retail price of more than $800.
Samsung has used its popular Galaxy phones to boost its mobile business, which has been struggling for more than two years amid strong competition from Apple Inc. and Chinese rivals.
In recent years, the FAA, numerous foreign air-safety regulators and airlines around the globe have started cracking down on spare batteries or battery-powered mobile devices placed in any bags that end up being loaded into aircraft bellies. Most airlines have a specific ban on putting such devices or batteries inside checked baggage.
Some airlines and regulators also have ramped up efforts to keep track of incidents on board planes involving electronic devices that smolder or catch fire. Such events have caused numerous diversions of aircraft.
Spurred by the sharp increase in the total number of devices passengers bring on board planes, some carriers, regulators and independent safety experts also have been reconsidering the safest and most efficient ways to fight such cabin fires.
Separately, regulators, airlines and battery-makers are devising safer packaging techniques for bulk shipments of lithium batteries transported in the holds of cargo carriers.
In Australia, flag carrier Qantas Airways Ltd. and its budget unit Jetstar, as well as competitor Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd., are telling passengers not to use or charge the devices.