How Samsung Note 7 ban affects travelers, airlines

WASHINGTON — The federal ban to keep Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices off U.S. airplanes is essentially a “self-policing” effort that airlines and Samsung are working to accommodate.

The U.S. Department of Transportation ordered the emergency ban because the devices are fire hazards.

Anyone violating the ban can face fines and a criminal prosecution, but the Transportation Security Administration is not actively working to identify passengers who might be carrying the phones.

“TSA officers are not searching for the phones. If, in the course of their normal duties, they encounter one at the checkpoint, they will inform the owner that the phone is not allowed on the aircraft and direct the passenger to leave the checkpoint and come back without the phone,” said TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

“We’re basically referring them to their airline. TSA officers are not collecting the phones. If discovered in checked baggage, it would be turned over to the airline,” Farbstein explained in an email.

Airlines are treating collected phones as “lost and found” items passengers can choose to retrieve upon their return to the airport.

At D.C.-area airports — and at others around the nation, such as John F. Kennedy International Airport — Samsung has tables where travelers can receive vouchers for replacement phones. An airports source told WTOP that Samsung representatives help travelers transfer phone data to SD cards and give them vouchers for phones to pick up in destination cities, where they can then download personal data onto new phones.

“The risk of fire with the Note 7 devices is real,” said Ricky Smith, CEO for BWI Marshall Airport, in a news release. “Airline passengers should heed the DOT order and not travel with the phones.”

A Samsung spokesperson told WTOP in an email that refunds and phone exchanges are occurring in a “wide range of places,” including some of the nation’s busiest airports.

“But we urge all Galaxy Note 7 owners to exchange their device or obtain a refund before they arrive at their airport. We know this is an inconvenience to our customers, but their safety has to remain our top priority,” the spokesperson said.

The U.S. DOT ban of Galaxy Note 7 devices from planes went into effect Saturday, Oct. 15.

On Tuesday, German carrier Lufthansa announced a ban of the devices on any of its flights.

To get information about returning a recalled Galaxy Note 7, you can call 1-800-726-7864 or visit the Samsung website.

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