Cathay Pacific and Dragonair ban use of new Samsung Galaxy phones on planes

Consumer Council urges people to stop using the products immediately due to risk of batteries exploding

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 September, 2016, 10:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2016, 4:05pm

Cathay Pacific and Dragonair have banned passengers from using Samsung’s problematic Galaxy Note 7 smartphone on their planes or placing them in checked luggage, while the Civil Aviation Department urged other airlines to address the issue.

A fault with the battery design has caused dozens of the phones to explode in the United States, prompting the country’s consumer protection agency and Federal Aviation Administration to issue warnings against using them on planes.

Samsung halts sales of Galaxy Note 7 smartphone over exploding battery risk

The Consumer Council in Hong Kong said on Saturday it had become “highly concerned” about the battery issue and warned people to stop using the phones immediately. It released a statement urging the manufacturer to recall the phones as soon as possible, along with an incident report for the cause of the problem and a reassurance that such incidents would not be repeated in future.

The Galaxy Note 7 smartphone was released to much fanfare only a few weeks ago as Samsung’s flagship product to counter the release of Apple’s iPhone 7 on Friday.

The US warnings were echoed by a rising wave of global warnings in Europe and across Asia on Friday and Saturday.

“In light of the recent recommendations by various aviation authorities regarding the use of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone on aircraft, we strongly advise our passengers that these devices should be powered off and not connected to any power source while onboard Cathay Pacific and Dragonair flights,” a Cathay spokesman said in a statement on Saturday.

“Additionally, these devices must be kept out of checked baggage. The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority. We’d appreciate the cooperation.”

Hong Kong Airlines put out a similar statement urging passengers not to use the phones or place them in checked luggage. “Safety is always the top priority of Hong Kong Airlines. We appreciate passengers’ understanding and cooperation,” it said.

In response to a Post inquiry, a Civil Aviation Department spokeswoman said: “[The department] has already notified the airlines operating in Hong Kong of the recent statements issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission on Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and urged these airlines to advise their passengers accordingly.

“The CAD will continue to closely monitor the development of this matter.”

Samsung is facing recalls in as many as 10 markets globally. In a press briefing with Korean media, the company’s management bowed deeply in apology to local consumers and admitted Samsung faced “steep losses” from the crisis. Some analysts estimated the costs might reach US$900 million.

A market-wide replacement programme has been available to Hong Kong consumers since Monday, but when the problem came to light, Samsung played down the issue.

“After a thorough investigation, we have determined that less than 500 units of Galaxy Note 7 sold in Hong Kong and Macau between 26 August and 1 September may be affected,” it said in a statement.

“Galaxy Note7 devices purchased from our authorised re-sellers or authorised distributors in Hong Kong and Macau since 2 September 2016 are not affected as the batteries of these devices are provided by a different supplier.”

Calls to Samsung’s customer service hotline in Hong Kong went unanswered on Saturday.

The phones were still available in stores in Causeway Bay. Sales representatives told the Post they were not aware of the airline ban and that there had been no new guidance. They believed the phones on offer should not be affected.