Last week Forbes reported on the uncertainties around Apple’s recall of some 15-inch MacBook Pro models due to concerns over the lithium-ion battery, and the worry and stress this was causing owners due to fly with any macOS powered laptop.
Following the FAA’s reminder to airlines that recalled batteries must not be in passengers carry-on or checked in luggage, there has been much discussion online and alerts from airlines regarding the banned laptops.
Yet the issue remains clouded with confusion for those affected, a complicated process to prove a laptop is safe when travelling, and a lack of solid communication from Apple.
The majority of airlines are following the FAA recommendation of ensuring that only units with recalled batteries are being recalled, but some are going further. For example, Thai Airways has simply prohibited any of the 15-inch MacBook Pro machines released between September 2015 and February 2017, noting that “the Thai safety policy strictly prohibits passengers from bringing older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops onto Thai aircraft in carry-on bags or in checked baggage. These devices were distributed by Apple Inc. between September 2015 and February 2017 and were recalled as batteries in some of these laptops could overheat.”
The ban may be limited to those machines with original batteries, but in some areas ground staff simply do not have the resources to assess every single silver laptop with an Apple on it.
@Apple Following the FAA ban, my husband has been prohibited from bring his 15″ MacBook Pro on a commercial helicopter flight home from work. The petroleum company have applied a blanket ban, ‘as ground staff do not have the manpower to individual MacBooks’ – Please help! pic.twitter.com/n1CFmmGpDB
— Claire Goodbrand (@Clairegoodbrand) August 21, 2019
What can you do? It’s important that you make yourself aware of the issue, and check the serial number of your MacBook Pro at Apples support site if you suspect it will be affected. If it is, then it is in your best interests to get the battery replaced as quickly as possible (even if you’re not a regular flier). Make sure to document everything, and when you travel bring the proof of purchase if you can, the results from Apple’s support page, and any paperwork that confirms the battery has been exchanged.
I would also check with your airline on individual policies. As noted above, for some the above may not be enough.
Banning damaged lithium-ion batteries from flight is a sensible precaution, but part of safety is communication. The FAA’s communication to airless and ancillary staff is clear – if a battery is recalled then it must not be flown – but the rest of the chain must also be as communicative. Passengers should clearly know what is needed to fly with a MacBook Pro; airlines must ensure staff are aware of the differences between MacBook Pro models and that batteries can be replaced; Airport staff must also be aware that this is a blanket ban.
And the primary source of information, Apple itself, should be playing a far more active role in this discussion. The Apple Newsroom does have a story on the battery recall (“Important notice for batteries in certain MacBook Pro units”) but there is no update to address the concerns raised online in the last week… yet over a third of the press release indulges itself to remind you how Apple has revolutionised personal technology.