Recalled 15-Inch MacBook Pro is a potential airport nightmare

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a ban on several Apple MacBook models after the tech giant announced that several 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops have been recalled due to potential fire hazard involving its batteries.

However, the policy, which is not a blanket ban — meaning that models that are not affected and are fixed can still be brought in a flight and cargo — can create confusion on whether a passenger’s MacBook Pro is allowed to fly or not.

Back in June, Apple announced that it would recall some of their MacBook Pro models because the lithium-ion batteries have been reported to have potential to ignite and could cause danger on users.

“Apple has determined that, in a limited number of older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro units, the battery may overheat and pose a fire safety risk. Affected units were sold primarily between September 2015 and February 2017, and product eligibility is determined by the product serial number,” Apple said in a statement.

Additionally, the tech giant also said that they would be fixing the problem and the affected unites free for charge.

In light of this recall, aviation safety regulators banned flying unfixed 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops with serial numbers that have been included in Apple’s recall.

In a statement, the FAA said that they are “aware of the recalled batteries that are used in some Apple MacBook Pro laptops” and has ordered airlines and airport authorities to ban the said laptop models. The regulatory body cited the 2016 safety instructions for goods with recalled batteries, which means that MacBook Pro laptops recalled by Apple should not be brought inside a flight either as cargo or as hand-carry luggage.

In a tweet, the FAA also reminded users and passengers of the recent ban. “#RECALL ALERT: The #FAA reminds passengers that recalled #batteries do not fly. Avoid carrying #recalled batteries when flying until repaired/replaced per manufacturer instructions,” they wrote in a post in the FAA official Twitter account.

Last week, four airlines with cargo operations managed by Total Cargo Expertise – TUI Group Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Air Italy, and Air Transat – have already implemented the ban, prohibiting the said MacBook models from being brought in their vehicles and cargoes.

“Please note that the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro laptop, sold between mid-2015 to February-2017 is prohibited onboard any of our mandate carriers,” a TCE operations coordinator wrote to employees.

But the twist comes after the fact that the ban is not a blanket ban and other MacBook Pro models that are not manufactured between September 2015 and February 2017 and those whose batteries were already replaced can already fly.

While it is easy to spot laptops according to their models, and their serial numbers can pinpoint when they were manufactured, it is hard for airlines and airport officials to distinguish or confirm whether batteries have been replaced and fixed.

The safest way for passengers to bring their fixed 15-inch MacBook Pro in their flights is to prepare a document that would prove that the batteries in the unit have already been replaced. But even so, in a busy airport, it’s more likely that people handling the line would less likely validate and blanket the ban all MacBook Pro units instead.

“This assumes that everyone is calm, sensible, and has time to go through the documentation with your laptop, checking serial numbers against Apple’s recall notice, and acknowledging that you have a new battery not covered by the recall,” Ewan Spence, a consumer tech contributor in Forbes said. “If you have a busy flight, are backed up in a security line, or you have an official that decides ‘this is a 15-inch MacBook Pro, it’s not going on the aircraft’ there’s very little that you can do,” he added.

Nonetheless, Apple has since been rolling out a quiet replacement of affected models – which is a lot and affected units in U.S. and Canada, the total affected units reach 480,000 laptops – and this could be sorted out once a replacement is done, and the recall has been lifted.

“Customer safety is always Apple’s top priority, and we have voluntarily decided to replace affected batteries, free of charge,” Apple said in a blog post.

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