Flying for business? Don’t take (some models) of 15-inch MacBook Pro

The Federal Aviation Authority has banned certain model 15-inch MacBook Pros from flights...

This isn’t a good look. The Federal Aviation Authority has banned certain models of 15-inch MacBook Pros from flights due to a previously disclosed battery risk.

What’s happening?

It’s important to stress that not every MacBook Pro is affected, but models sold between mid-2015 to February 2017 are impacted.

These are the same Macs Apple issued a voluntary recall for earlier this year, warning that they may “contain a battery that may overheat and pose a fire safety risk”.

As part of the recall, Apple is offering free battery replacement for these models. You can check if your Mac is part of this recall on an Apple support page here.

If you are travelling with a MacBook Pro you should check if it is prescribed before you travel – it is important to note that Apple claims just 26 Macs were affected by the problem.

Which airlines are currently affected?

An FAA advisory is frequently adopted by other air traffic regulators and at present you should not attempt to fly with an affected model on the following airlines:

  • TUI Group Airlines.
  • Thomas Cook Airlines.
  • Air Italy.
  • Air Transat.

These airlines are all managed by Total Cargo Expertise. The FAA confirmed it has reminded airlines to follow safety guidelines around recalled batteries.

What the FAA is saying

An FAA statement on recalled batteries states:

“Lithium batteries recalled by the manufacturer/vendor must not be carried aboard aircraft or packed in baggage. Battery-powered devices recalled because of lithium battery safety concerns also should not be carried aboard aircraft or packed in baggage unless the device or its battery has been replaced, repaired or otherwise made safe per manufacturer/vendor instructions. The FAA and your airline may offer further public guidance on individual recalled products.”

This isn’t the first battery-related problem…

Apple isn’t the first company to see products banned on strength of battery problems. Perhaps one of the most widely reported recent incidents in 2013 saw a flagship Samsung smartphone (the Galaxy Note 7) banned from flights following widely reported explosions that took place before the product shipped in great quantities.

Apple’s products have seen battery problems before.

The company always investigates such reports and usually engages in restorative action, such as the launch of its  Adaptor Replacement scheme in 2013, in which it encouraged device users with third party adaptors to claim discounted ($10) replacements from Apple.

What next for batteries?

Battery technology is one of the most intensively researched topics in the consumer electronics industry.

That’s understandable.

Not only are manufacturers attempting to delilver long battery life, but they are under pressure to do so in ways that are both environmentally and physically safe. After all, the power stored inside these batteries can be high, and this can endanger life and property when things go wrong.

This is why consumer and enterprise computer users should always think twice when purchasing devices equipped with Lithium Ion batteries, as everything pretty much is today.

Some advice:

  • Always purchase a reputable brand: This doesn’t guarantee safety (as Apple’s case proves), but does usually mean a vendor will be accountable and provide after-sales support in instances in which faults are identified.
  • Don’t buy cheap: Apple has warned of the perils of unauthorized power-related products in the past. The Adapter Replacement Scheme is a good example of this, but the bottom line is that if you plan to pass power through a cable or adaptor then it makes sense to really think about how much you are saving in the event a poorly manufactured item creates a problem. 

It is unfortunate that Apple’s professional range of portable Macs has been affected, but with just 26 reported incidents across a product that sold in tens of millions the likelihood of your Mac encountering this problem is low, though it makes sense to get the battery replaced.

If there’s any good to be had in this incident, it has to be that it will make these models a little cheaper on the second-user market, as it looks like you won’t be able to fly with them – after all, how will the airline be able to tell if the battery has been replaced or not?

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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