Jing Cao and Mary Schlangenstein
Samsung Electronics Co. is letting travelers exchange their Note 7 smartphones at special booths set up at America’s busiest airports.
The program is part of Samsung’s worldwide effort to recall millions of Galaxy Note 7 phones, which are prone to catching fire and exploding. Customers can exchange the phones or get a full refund, a company representative said in a statement. Samsung didn’t specify which U.S. airports or how many would be part of the exchange program.
Regulators have banned the model from carry-on and checked baggage on all U.S. flights and last week said passengers who try to carry Note 7 smartphones onto planes will have them confiscated and may face fines. Samsung is urging customers to get the refunds or exchange the phones before arriving at the airport.
After aviation agencies around the world banned the phone, Samsung has had to “scramble to figure out how to do the recall effectively and on a global basis — it’s handled differently in different regions based on laws and customs and regulations and such,” said Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen, who has been following the recall crisis. “There’s no other benchmark in the industry for how to handle something like this. This is basically emergency reverse logistics.”
American Airlines Group Inc. will take any Note 7 phones discovered at airports and follow existing procedures for any hazardous material. The devices will be held for 30 days, during which the owner can claim them. Southwest Airlines Co., meanwhile, will handle the smartphone as a hazardous material, but won’t hold it for the owner, said spokeswoman Lori Crabtree. Both airlines are communicating the Note 7 ban on planes and at multiple airport locations. Airlines also are e-mailing customers in advance of their travel about the Note 7 ban.
If a Note 7 is discovered on board a flight, it will be confiscated as any other hazardous material and turned over to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration upon landing, airlines’ representatives said.
“We don’t have any reports of major issues with the collection of the Note 7 devices,” said American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein. American has taken custody of a few of the devices before passengers boarded, he said, without specifying the number. “But the request is to not come to the airport with them in the first place,” he said.
Samsung cut its third-quarter operating profit by $2.3 billion last week after deciding to permanently end production of the troubled smartphone.