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    Here's why MacBook Pro is not allowed on flights; find out if your laptop is faulty too

    Synopsis

    Yesterday, DGCA asked passengers to not carry certain type of MacBook Pro laptops in planes.

    Agencies
    MacBook Pro – the latest gadget threat to airlines globally.
    If you’re a frequent flyer, you probably know the drill: “Please ensure that you do not carry any power banks or batteries in your check-in luggage. All permissible batteries must be carried in carry-on baggage only”. But have you wondered why?

    The reason is simple – in case there is an issue with a battery pack on board, the airline staff is well equipped to deal with it and contain a faulty battery. That’s why all airlines now carry electronic fire containment bags. Inside your check-in luggage, in the hold of the aircraft, there is no easy access. If a battery goes up in flames, it could set fire to the luggage and bring the plane down.


    How did MacBook Pro enter the fray?
    The issue started when Apple issued a recall on their website in June this year. According to Apple, “in a limited number of older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro units, the battery may overheat and pose a fire safety risk.” Banned models include 15-inch MacBook Pros from 2015 sold between September 2015 and February 2017.
    Steven Gagne's MacBook Pro caught fire. (Image: Facebook/Steven Gagne)Agencies
    Steven Gagne's MacBook Pro caught fire. (Image: Facebook/Steven Gagne)

    The issue snowballed
    On June 10, the US FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) issued alerts, reminding passengers that recalled batteries in these specific MacBook Pro laptops ‘do not fly’. Several aviation authorities around the world have followed suit. They are all closely watching the issue and issuing advisories to airports and airlines. This is what prompted even India’s DGCA to send out a message on Aug 26, requesting passengers not to fly with the affected models of MacBook Pro. At the moment it is just a notification and a request – not a ban. If there are any reported incidents with these laptops, this may escalate into a full ban (like there was for the ill-fated Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and the continuing ban on e-scooters and hoverboards).


    Why airlines are scared
    Batteries, especially the lithium ion batteries that are so common in devices today, can be really volatile. A quick search of exploding batteries on YouTube will easily scare you into thinking that you’re carrying a miniature explosive device in your pocket. By and large, batteries are safe – but that’s if they are properly manufactured, with set standards, without defects and are not subjected to high stress (incorrect voltage, high heat or physical stress, like bending or puncturing). That’s a lot of ‘ifs’.

    A limited number of older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops, sold primarily between September 2015 and February 2017, posed a safety risk​. (Image: Facebook/Steven Gagne)Agencies
    A limited number of older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops, sold primarily between September 2015 and February 2017, posed a safety risk. (Image: Facebook/Steven Gagne)

    If a battery is compromised, it can swell up, leak, catch fire or even explode! Risks to you range from mild chemical burns to explosive damage. In the confines of an airplane cabin, these risks are magnified a thousand times over.

    What can you do?
    To find out if your 15-inch MacBook Pro is affected, first select ‘About This Mac’ from the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen. If it says ‘MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015)’, then you move on to the next step. If it says something else, you’re safe.

    If it does say the above, you need to enter your machine’s serial number on Apple’s support page. You can find the serial number of your MacBook Pro listed in the ‘About This Mac’ page. If Apple suggests that your machine is part of the recall, you should stop using it immediately and take it to an Apple authorized service centre to have the battery replaced. This replacement will be done free of cost but does not include paid service for any other issue.

    The issue of electronic devices getting overheated and emitting smoke could cause safety hazard on-board.Agencies
    The issue of electronic devices getting overheated and emitting smoke could cause safety hazard on-board. (Image: Facebook/Steven Gagne)

    Have a MacBook Pro? Be prepared
    Even if you’re an informed consumer, the unfortunate part is that the shiny Apple logo on laptops is being looked at with suspicion in airports around the world. Just as a precaution, you should carry a print of the support page and be ready to prove that your machine is not part of the recall. If your machine is part of the recall and you have had the battery replaced, you must carry the repair/replacement certificate that the Apple service centre issues to you.

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