FAA Bans Some Recalled MacBook Pro Models From Flying, Citing Fire Risk

A late 2016 MacBook Pro.
Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

The Federal Aviation Administration has “banned select MacBook Pro” units from flying in the air after Apple issued a warning that some contained batteries that pose a fire risk, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

The ban applies to some 15-inch MacBook Pros with Retina Displays sold between September 2015 and February 2017; these were subject to a June 2019 Apple recall warning of a “fire safety risk” if the laptops continued to be used without receiving replacement batteries. The FAA said in a statement to Bloomberg that it was “aware of the recalled batteries that are used in some Apple MacBook Pro laptops,” adding that it had alerted airlines to the issue.

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European Union Aviation Safety Agency regulators issued their own warnings earlier this month, Bloomberg wrote:

This week, four airlines with cargo operations managed by Total Cargo ExpertiseTUI Group Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Air Italy, and Air Transatimplemented a ban, barring the laptops from being brought onto the carriers’ planes as cargo, according to an internal notice obtained by Bloomberg News.

“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,” a TCE operations coordinator wrote to employees.

One of the European airlines, TUI Group, told Bloomberg that it will begin making announcements about the prohibition on shipping the MacBook Pros as cargo before flights. It is “unclear what efforts will, if any, will be made at U.S. airports, the network added. According to the Verge, rather specifying any enforcement actions, an FAA statement referenced general guidelines prohibiting any items with a recalled lithium-ion battery from flying as cargo or carry-on without special fire safety packaging. Both European and U.S. regulators appear to have no issue with recalled laptops that have received safer parts.

A 2015-2017 MacBook Pro with a defective battery looks exactly the same from the outside as one that does not, and according to Bloomberg, a Canadian notice in June estimated that only a limited number of laptops were recalled—around 458,000 sold in the U.S. and Canada combined. So unlike the infamous Samsung Galaxy Note fiasco in 2016, there’s a fair chance that laboriously enforcing this directive for every MacBook that comes through a security checkpoint won’t be at the top of the priorities list.

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Still, if there’s a chance you have a MacBook model that could be subject to recall, head on over to Apple’s support page to double check whether your laptop is good to fly or needs a new battery.

[Bloomberg]

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Tom McKay

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post