Earlier this year, Apple announced a recall for a collection of 2015 MacBook Pro models that were identified as having defective and potentially dangerous batteries, and now the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken the additional step of banning those specific MacBooks from being brought on flights, Bloomberg reports.
While Apple’s recall announcement naturally downplayed the number of units that were affected, using the phrase “a limited number”, documents later published by U.S. and Canadian consumer product safety agencies revealed that that almost a half a million units of the affected MacBook Pro were sold in North America. However, of these 458,000 units, only 27 users had reported incidents where the battery had overheated.
This means that if you’re using a 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro, odds are pretty good that it could be on the list, but even if it is, chances are that you’re happily using it without any problems at all. However, even if you’re not concerned about the possible battery issues, or simply haven’t had time to deal with it, if you’re planning to travel and have an affected MacBook, you’ll either want to leave it at home or get it serviced before your trip.
Standard Safety Procedures
To be clear, this move by the FAA isn’t singling out Apple or its MacBooks specifically, but is simply a standard safety procedure for the aviation regulator when dealing with any products that have had recall notices issued pertaining to battery problems. A 2016 FAA safety instruction says that products with potentially dangerous batteries should not be taken on flights either as cargo or in carry-on baggage.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has a similar policy, and issued a warning earlier this month directing airlines in its region to follow its 2017 rules, which in Europe don’t prohibit such devices from being taken on flights, but insists that they must be switched off and not used.
In both cases, the agencies have simply alerted airlines to the recall notice, making them aware that these particular MacBook Pro models fall under the standard safety directives.
What Should I Do?
Firstly, you should determine if your MacBook Pro is affected by the recall. If it’s not identified as a “MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015)” when selecting About This Mac from the Apple menu in the top-left corner of this screen, then it’s definitely not part of the recall at all, and you don’t need to worry.
However, not every 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro includes the defective battery, so even if you have this model of MacBook Pro, it’s still possible that yours isn’t on the list. Visiting Apple’s Battery Recall Program page will let you enter your serial number to check if it’s included on the list. If it’s not, then you’re still fine, but if so, then Apple’s site will provide you with further instructions on how to get your battery replaced for free by Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider.
Flying with Your MacBook
With the FAA now having sent out this bulletin, airport and airline personnel are likely to be more on the lookout for MacBooks, and there may be some confusion as to which models are affected, so it’s best to be as prepared as possible if you’re travelling with your MacBook.
According to an internal notice from a cargo operator obtained by Bloomberg, four airlines have already explicitly prohibited the affected laptops from being brought onto the carriers’ planes as cargo, explicitly listing the “15-inch Apple MacBook Pro laptop sold between mid-2015 to February-2017” and it’s safe to say that other airlines have issued similar internal polices. However, a spokesperson for at least one airline, TUI Group, said that laptops that have had their batteries replaced will not be impacted.
So if you’re planning on taking your MacBook with you on your flight, you’ll probably also want to arrive at the airport with paperwork in hand to demonstrate that your specific MacBook Pro is not affected — either because it’s not on the recall list in the first place, or because you have had it serviced and had the battery replaced.
In the first case, having your MacBook serial number readily available should help to prove that it’s not on the recall list, although it also wouldn’t hurt to print out the confirmation from Apple’s battery recall program page as well to help expedite the process.
If your MacBook Pro was on the list, but you’ve had it serviced, you’ll want to bring proof of the battery replacement along with you, since airport and airline officials will likely have no other way of confirming that your MacBook Pro is no longer a potential danger to aviation safety.
Even if you’re not flying, however, if you’ve got a 15-inch 2015 MacBook Pro, we’d strongly recommend getting it checked out. You may not have had any problems yet, but it could very well be a ticking time bomb.