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15-Inch MacBook Pro Laptop Ban: What You Need to Know Before You Fly

15-Inch MacBook Pro Laptop Ban: What You Need to Know Before You Fly

When traveling for business, chances are you have a laptop or tablet in tow. For business travelers and even some leisure travelers, having a laptop or tablet not only makes the time in-flight productive, but it is also a necessary office tool used once travelers reach their destination. But what happens when your device is subject to a recall? Keep reading to learn about the increasing issues surrounding flying with a MacBook Pro.

Select MacBook Pro Laptops Recalled

Unfortunately, in late June 2019, Apple issued a recall on select 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops due to the potential fire risk in the lithium ion batteries. The recall reportedly affected more than 430,000 customers in the United States and more than 25,000 in Canada.

FAA Ban on Affected MacBook Pros

Due to the recall, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a ban on the affected Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops, prohibiting them from being brought on an aircraft as a carry-on or checked baggage due to a potential fire risk. The risk of fire poses an incredible danger as a fire in the cabin of a plane would most likely require an emergency landing — after all, you can’t open the windows to let the smoke out of the cabin, which could lead to smoke inhalation, panic, or worse. Obviously, a fire in the cargo space could prove to be deadly if gone undetected, allowing the fire to spread. Ultimately, this led to the TSA requiring that consumers with the affected MacBook Pros replace the battery or leave it at home. 

Recall Creates Confusion

At first, the recall seemed like a minor inconvenience for affected MacBook Pro laptop owners as Apple has and continues to replace the affected laptops free of charge. Airlines initially advised that travelers should simply follow FAA guidelines and that replaced batteries would be allowed. However, as business travelers heeded the recall and replaced the batteries, some travelers found that TSA agents were not equipped to determine whether the battery was old or a new replacement. As can be imagined, the issue was compounded during busy travel periods. This led to widespread confusion and frustration, especially from business travelers and frequent flyers, as evidenced by those who took to Twitter and other social media to express their discontent. 

Airlines Begin Their Own Restrictions and Bans 

Amid the confusion and as a result of growing concern over the affected laptops, some airlines have recently taken steps to ban or restrict all MacBooks from cargo or cabin space, even ones that were not subject to the recall, compounding confusion surrounding the ill-fated MacBook Pros. 

At the time of publication, Virgin Australia has banned all MacBook Pro laptops from checked baggage, offering a statement on their website: “Due to a worldwide recall by Apple of a number of Apple MacBook batteries, ALL Apple MacBooks must be placed in carry-on baggage only. No Apple MacBooks are permitted in checked in baggage until further notice.” 

Following suit with Virgin Australia, Qantas Airways also made a similar statement to a representative from Business Insider, in which the representative stated that the airline is also banning all 15-inch MacBooks from the cargo area and requiring those carried-on to be powered off. However, it should be noted that there currently is not a statement accessible on the Qantas Airways website.

Not to be outdone, Thai Airlines also posted their own restrictions, encouraging those with affected laptops to have the battery replaced. The statement also stated “…should any passengers have the utmost need to bring the aforementioned models of MacBook Pro laptops onto THAI aircraft, they are required only to be brought on board in carry-on baggage, and THAI asks their owners for cooperation in refraining from using or charging the laptops during flight.” It appears from the statement that unlike Virgin and Qantas, Thai Airlines’ restriction is limited to the laptops that were affected by the recall. 

Additionally, Singapore Airlines has also implemented their own restrictions that mirror the restrictions put in place by Thai Airlines. The Singapore Airlines restrictions prohibit affected MacBook Pros from the cargo area and only allowing MacBook Pro laptops that were powered off as a carry-on item into the cabin. Certainly, there is the potential for additional airlines to join in issuing bans as an added precaution.

What Does This Mean For Business Travelers?

For business travelers who own a MacBook Pro, it certainly means that you’ll be facing some headaches if attempting to travel with the affected laptop. We encourage all travelers to check with their airline before flying with a MacBook Pro to ensure that they are complying with the most current regulations. We also encourage you to bring documentation of the recalled battery replacement and allow ample time for potential security delays with TSA. Of course, another option would be as the FAA says, “When in doubt, leave it out.” But for business travelers whose work requires a laptop and for which leaving it out isn’t an option, it just may mean traveling with something else. 

Written by: Stephanie I.

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