Reports are circulating this week that the Federal Aviation Administration has banned certain Apple MacBooks from flights. The ban relates to a specific model of MacBook due to a battery recall. As such, this will only affect a very small percentage of travelers.
The FAA warning
According to Bloomberg, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement saying that it was “aware of the recalled batteries that are used in some Apple MacBook Pro laptops”. The aviation regular also stated that it has alerted major U.S. airlines about the laptop battery recall.
The FAA moved to ban select MacBook Pro laptops on flights because Apple warns that some units had batteries that could catch fire under specific conditions. Apple issued the following notice in June:
“Apple has determined that, in a limited number of older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro units, the battery may overheat and pose a fire safety risk”
Through our research, it has proven difficult to find the specific FAA advisory that names the specific model of Apple laptop. The Verge wrote that the FAA has not explicitly banned these laptops. In fact, they are banned only because all recalled batteries are banned.
We reached out to the three major U.S. Airlines for comment. At the time of publishing, only American Airlines has responded saying:
“We are in touch with the FAA to obtain additional details. Additionally, Our crews are trained on fighting high energy battery fires. As part of safety management and risk mitigation, we always evaluate additional ways to enhance existing procedures to ensure cabin safety.”
American Airlines also highlights the fact that their aircraft has “fire containment bags” made by AvSax.
Is your laptop part of this?
Despite all of the eye-catching headlines, the ban applies to a particular model of Macbook produced within a particular time frame, with a particular battery. Here are the specifics of the ban:
- 15-inch MacBook Pros
- Sold between September 2015 and February 2017.
- Has a particular battery – which you can only find by serial number
Apple offers the following instructions to see if your model’s original battery is part of the recall:
First check to see which 15-inch MacBook Pro you have. Choose About This Mac from the Apple menu () in the upper-left corner of your screen. Confirm your model is “MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015).”
If you have that model, enter your computer’s serial number at Apple’s battery recall page. If your serial number matches please follow the instructions on Apple’s website. However, on their website they make it clear that the battery recall program does not affect other MacBook Pro models.
Warnings from other aviation authorities
Even though the FAA has not specifically banned these devices by name, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) explicitly issued a warning about these MacBook Pro models earlier this month:
“EASA was informed of this recall notice on July 31, 2019 and assessed that it falls within the scope of applicability of its existing SIB 2017-01, which contains general recommendations regarding the transport by air, as cargo and by passengers, of damaged, recalled, defective or potentially hazardous lithium batteries, including those contained in equipment.”
SIB 2017-01 was issued in the aftermath of the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco and is a general advisory that applies generally to any “damaged, defective or recalled lithium batteries.”
In addition to the EASA’s recent actions, four airlines with cargo operations managed by Total Cargo Expertise (TCE) implemented a ban this week. A TCE operations coordinator wrote the following to employees.
“Please note that the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro laptop, sold between mid-2015 to February-2017 is prohibited on board any of our mandate carriers,”
The policy will ban laptops in question from being going onboard its carrier’s planes as cargo. TCE manages cargo operations for the following airlines:
- TUI Group Airlines,
- Thomas Cook Airlines,
- Air Italy,
- and Air Transat.
Bloomberg notes that it’s unclear what measures will take place at U.S. airports with regards to this issue. In fact, The Verge points out the obvious fact that you can’t always tell MacBooks apart according to year and good/bad batteries.
Whether this applies to you or not, news like this always serves as a good reminder for passengers to be aware of the types of electronics they have in their possession while traveling.
Now would be a good time to check what model of laptop, smartphone, or tablet you have. With that model name/number, run a quick search on whether or not your device has had any battery recalls. Hopefully, it’ll save you some stress and inconvenience as you approach airport security!