Apple MacBook Pro models deemed a fire risk, banned from flights around the globe

(Image credit: Future)

UPDATE: While airlines in the US were the first to issue bans over the affected MacBook Pro laptops, others around the world have followed suit after warnings from both the US and EU. 

Virgin Airlines in Australia is the most recent to ban the laptops from being stowed in checked-in luggage, applying the block to every Apple MacBook product, although they're still allowed in carry-on. Most other airlines are enforcing a strict ban on just the affected laptops until the battery can be verified. 

Other such airlines include Singapore Airlines (SIA), Thai Airways, and all flights within Vietnam and India. We expect the ban will likely effect more airlines in the coming weeks.

[Original article continues below]

Some MacBook Pro 15-inch models have been identified as posing a fire risk by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and has banned them from being brought on an airplane.

Back in June, Apple initiated a recall for certain MacBook Pro 15-inch laptops sold between September 2015 and February 2017 for a battery replacement. At the time, the company noted that these portables could contain a battery that might overheat and pose a ‘safety risk’.

This affected a limited number of these notebooks, and you could check if your MacBook Pro was hit by this problem (and still can) by entering your serial number here.

It’s these MacBooks which the FAA has alerted major US airlines about, noting that it was “aware of the recalled batteries that are used in some Apple MacBook Pro laptops”, as Bloomberg reports.

Airlines were told 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 that potential fire risk (unless they have had the battery replaced by Apple).

Bloomberg further notes that it has obtained internal documents showing that this week, four airlines – 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.

We contacted Apple to find out more, and the company told us that customers should check to see if their MacBook Pros are affected, and if so to have their batteries replaced as soon as possible  – especially if they are planning to travel.

Departure debacles?

Bloomberg also states that airport staff will be making announcements about these MacBook Pros at the departure gate, and flight attendants before take-off.

This does raise some questions, though. If somebody is carrying a MacBook Pro 15-inch, how exactly will airport staff check whether it’s an affected model?

Also, devices which have had their battery replaced aren’t banned – but if airport staff find a traveler has one of the recalled units, what if the owner claims the battery has been replaced; how is that then verified by staff?

None of this practical side of the implementation of the ban is clear from the info divulged so far, and it’s not too difficult to imagine that this could potentially make for some thorny issues and frustration for MacBook Pro owners at the departure gate.

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.

You may also recall that a few years ago, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 was famously banned on all US flights and branded a severe safety risk on the fire front.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).