MacBook Pro flight ban: everything you need to know

MacBook Pro flight ban
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The MacBook Pro flight ban continues to spread, with a growing number of airlines now banning Apple’s laptops from flights due to fire risks. If you own a MacBook Pro and are planning on travelling with it, you’ll be understandably concerned about this flight ban, so in this guide we’ll explain everything you need to know to ensure you travel safely and with the minimum of disruption.

First of all, we should explain how the MacBook Pro flight ban came about. It all started back in June 2019, when Apple Apple announced a recall for certain MacBook Pro 15-inch laptops sold between September 2015 and February 2017 for a battery replacement.

The recall was initiated after Apple discovered that the batteries inside the affected MacBook Pros could overheat and pose a ‘safety risk’.

Of course, one of the last places you want a battery to catch fire is on an airplane, so the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alerted US airlines to follow safety regulations from 2016 for products with batteries under recall, meaning that these affected MacBooks can’t be taken on a flight due to the potential fire risk.

After the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery debacle, where the smartphone was banned from flights after numerous cases of the handset’s batteries catching fire, the FAA is understandably cautious after the MacBook Pro recall.

MacBook Pro flight ban: how can I check to see if my MacBook Pro is affected?

The first thing you should do to check if your MacBook Pro is affected by the flight ban is to use Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro Battery Recall Program website.

From there, you can enter the serial number of your MacBook into the website to check to see if your MacBook Pro is affected.

You can find the serial number by clicking the Apple logo and selecting ‘About this Mac’.

If your MacBook Pro is found to be affected, Apple suggests you stop using it immediately, and take it to an Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple Store to get the battery replaced for free.

Even if you’re not planning on travelling with your MacBook Pro, you should still check to make sure your MacBook Pro isn’t affected due to the fire risks involved.

Once the MacBook Pro battery has been replaced, you should be able to travel with your laptop on flights.

However, even if your MacBook Pro’s battery has been replaced – or your MacBook Pro isn’t affected by the recall – you may still find you get delayed, or are banned from taking your laptop on the flight – anyway. This is because many airlines are banning all MacBook Pros, or MacBooks, regardless of whether or not they are affected by the battery recall.

After all, how can airport staff check every MacBook Pro that passes through? This could lead to major delays in airports, which could explain the blanket ban.

If you need to travel with your MacBook Pro, then we advise your call your airline to find out their policy. You might find that you’re unable to bring it aboard, in which case you’ve at least saved yourself some trouble.

Which airlines have banned the MacBook Pro?

Qantas is one of the airlines that announced a MacBook Pro flight ban (Image credit: Shutterstock)

MacBook Pro flight ban: which airlines have banned the MacBook Pro?

Since the news of the MacBook Pro flight ban broke, several airlines from around the world have announced that they will not allow MacBook Pros on their flights.

All major US airlines have banned affected MacBook Pros from flights following instructions from the FAA.

Meanwhile, TUI Group Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Air Italy, and Air Transat – have banned the MacBook Pro models in question. 

These airlines all have the cargo side of their operation managed by Total Cargo Expertise, and that firm has told staff members: “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.”

The laptops are banned from both the cargo hold, and from being brought on board into the actual cabin.

In Europe, the aviation safety watchdog (EASA) didn’t go as far as an outright ban on the affected MacBook Pros, but if one of the laptops is brought on board a European flight, it is required to be switched off and not used (or charged) at all.

In Australia, both Virgin Australia and Qantas Airlines have banned the MacBook Pro from being taken on as hand luggage.

Virgin Australia has stated that “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,” and that “No Apple MacBooks are permitted in checked in baggage until further notice.”

An important thing to note about Virgin Australia’s ban is that this affects all MacBooks, not just 15-inch MacBook Pros.

Meanwhile, Qantas Airways has told ZDNet that “until further notice, all 15-inch Apple MacBook Pros must be carried in cabin baggage and switched off for flight following a recall notice issued by Apple.”

If you’re travelling in Asia, Singapore Airlines (SIA), Thai Airways, and all flights within Vietnam and India have implemented a MacBook Pro flight ban.

In the Middle East, Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways has also implemented the ban issuing a statement that “laptops subject to the manufacturer’s recall must remain switched off throughout the flight. Charging of the devices will not be permitted in flight.”

We expect more airlines to announce MacBook Pro bans in the near future, and will update this section as we hear more.

MacBook Pro flight ban: what should I do if I’m affected?

Planning ahead can save you time at the airport (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re going to be affected by the MacBook Pro flight ban, then we recommend you do the following things.

First of all, due to the differences in how airlines are handling the ban, with some only including the affected MacBook Pro 15-inch models, with others issuing a blanket ban, we’d recommend not travelling with your MacBook Pro unless absolutely necessary.

If you do need to travel with your MacBook Pro, then make sure the battery has been replaced by Apple if your MacBook Pro is affected by the recall. This process can take a few weeks, so make sure you get it done with plenty of time before your flight.

You should also contact your airline and check to see what guidance it can give. As we mentioned earlier, this can save you a lot of time and bother at the airport.

You’ll also need to make sure that your MacBook Pro – if it is allowed on the flight at all – is packed in your luggage that gets taken to the hold – not in hand luggage you take on board with you into the cabin.

Sure, it’s an annoying disruption to your plans, but it will at least ensure you encounter the minimum of delays when travelling with your MacBook Pro. Hopefully, Apple will sort out these issues soon.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.