By Tom Westbrook
SYDNEY, Sept 8 – Three Australian airlines have banned passengers from using or charging Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Note 7 smartphones during flights due to concerns over the phone’s fire-prone batteries.
Qantas, its budget unit Jetstar and Virgin Australia said they had not been directed to ban the use of the phone by aviation authorities, but did so as a precaution following Samsung’s recall of the phones in 10 markets.
Although customers will still be able to bring the phones on flights, the ban extends to the phones being plugged in to flight entertainment systems where USB ports are available.
The recall follows reports of the 988,900 won ($885) phone igniting while charging – an embarrassing blow to Samsung, which prides itself on its manufacturing prowess and had been banking on the devices to add momentum to a recovery in its mobile business.
Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone vendor, has sold 2.5 million of the premium devices so far.
“Following Samsung Australia’s recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 personal electronic device we are requesting that passengers who own them do not switch on or charge them in flight,” a Qantas spokesman said in an emailed statement.
Samsung Australia said in a statement that it had liaised with Qantas and Virgin Australia following the recall.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering its response to the Samsung recall and “working on guidance related to this issue,” according to a FAA statement quoted by technology website Gizmodo.
Airlines have previously banned hoverboards from planes due to battery-fire risks.
In February the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations’ agency, banned lithium-ion batteries from checked luggage following concerns from pilots and plane makers that they are a fire risk.