MacBook ban: Qantas, Virgin Australia clamp down on Apple laptops

Qantas and Virgin Australia join the list of airlines clamping down on Apple MacBooks due to concerns over faulty batteries.

By David Flynn, August 27 2019

Qantas and Virgin Australia are clamping down on travellers using Apple laptops following a recall of selected MacBook Pro models due to issues which could see the battery overheat and potentially catch fire.

Qantas has declared that while MacBook Pro laptops will be allowed on board for domestic or international flights, they must remain turned off.

"Until further notice, all Apple MacBook Pros must be carried in cabin baggage and switched off for flight following a recall notice issued by Apple,” a Qantas spokesperson told Executive Traveller.

Update: as of August 28, Qantas has revised its stance to specify that this applies only to "all 15 inch Apple MacBook Pros", and does not include the smaller 13-inch MacBook Pro models.

Virgin Australia's sweep encompasses all MacBook laptops, not just those models hit by Apple's recall notice.

“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," the airline says. “No Apple MacBooks are permitted in checked in baggage until further notice.”

The airlines' decisions follow a 'no-fly ban' imposed on selected MacBook Pro models by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, after Apple issued a worldwide recall on some 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops sold between September 2015 and February 2017, admitting that "the battery may overheat and pose a fire safety risk."

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency issued a warning about these MacBook Pro models earlier this month, telling airlines in the region to follow 2017 rules that require devices with recalled lithium-ion batteries to be switched off and not used during flights.

Earlier this week, Singapore Airlines asked travellers "to refrain from bringing the affected models either as hand-carry or in checked baggage until the battery has been verified as safe or replaced by the manufacturer."

Travellers can determine if their Apple MacBook Pro is one of the affected models which qualify for a free battery replacement by visiting the Apple website's 15-inch MacBook Pro Battery Recall Program page.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

mviy

mviy

05 May 2016

Total posts 527

This seems extreme, especially for long-haul flights. It's not hard to read the model number off the bottom of a computer and confirm that it's not an affected model.

PaulST

PaulST

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2014

Total posts 52

There goes my plan to get any work done on SYD-HKG next month.

Lmc

Lmc

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 58

Im sure a glass of red and a movie will be enjoyed haha

PaulST

PaulST

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2014

Total posts 52

And if I'm not in a state to 'do business' when I arrive in HKG, I'll direct my bosses complaints to QF. :-D

Concorde1990

Concorde1990

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 71

Go to an apple store and get the battery replaced if it is faulty. If it's not; get a letter from apple specific to your Mac serial number, stating that it's unaffected by the recall and poses no risk.

PunditShafton

PunditShafton

12 Jun 2014

Total posts 69

I'm doomed! $10000 for a silver block can only be used as a brick,if at all.

markpk

markpk

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 456

Why?

It takes a user 5 seconds to click on "About this Mac" and show Qantas/VA staff that its either part of or not part of the affected range.

There's nothing on the Qantas website about this. Why implement such a draconian policy, comment publicly about it but then not have anything listed on their website?

vperez

vperez

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Sep 2014

Total posts 49

Not only that, but it's not difficult to recognise the difference between the 15 and 13'in MBP. But hey, why use reason when you can go to the extreme and assert 'precaution'.

tommygun

tommygun

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 88

Staff do not have time to individually check every Apple. Nor will they agree to do so, as it may place liability on them if they get it wrong and an incident occurs. The only workable strategy is a clear statement of broad policy that must be adhered to in all cases. Disclosure: I have a MacBook, for the time being I'll have to wear the restrictions in the greater good.

UpUpAndAway

UpUpAndAway

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 295

Last flight I did with Singapore Airlines I noticed a lithium ion fire containment bag in the overhead locker, I have actually thought of carry my spare batteries in one of these bags, most drone shops sell the bags and are available on ebay.

OZjames70

OZjames70

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 16

We had similar arguments for the Samsungs, and my call is err on the side of safety.

Bavarian

Bavarian

23 Aug 2012

Total posts 33

Although banning all is a simple policy, this is more than a massive annoyance to business travellers and it's way over the top. Banning 15" MacBooks, okay, simple enough. But banning all, just in case?
And then: Can't there be a tamper-evident-sticker to be acquired at any Apple outlet, indicating "this MacBook has a safe battery", so that even the dumbest and most untrained airport staff, security staff and (albeit quite likely not in the category "dumbest") crew would be able to quickly check and allow using?

Phil O'Paistree

Phil O'Paistree

10 Dec 2018

Total posts 29

"... Can't there be a tamper-evident-sticker to be acquired at any Apple outlet, indicating "this MacBook has a safe battery" ...". No, there can't, because there's no such thing as a safe lithium battery at these power 'densities'.

Bavarian

Bavarian

23 Aug 2012

Total posts 33

Following your "no safe battery" approach, we'd need to ban all lithium battery powered devices from aircrafts, starting with pacemakers, hearing-aids, cellphones etc. We can't get rid of lithium batteries right now.

So we got to deal with the faulty ones in an appropriate manner.

tinac

tinac

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 1

Let's not refer to humans doing their work as “dumb” or “dumber than others” just says more about you than anything really

Phil O'Paistree

Phil O'Paistree

10 Dec 2018

Total posts 29

tinac

The myth that we are all created equal is just that ... a myth. The moron (no, not the religious following ... or Harvey) who brings your flight down because they thought 'flight mode' equals 'turned off' may prove the point.

Phil O'Paistree

Phil O'Paistree

10 Dec 2018

Total posts 29

Excellent to see that the red arrows reflect a reasonably high level of common sense with regard to suggestions along the lines that security staff could 'simply turn them on and check to see if they are an affected model ... or not'. No thanks, not in my security queue, not on my flight. Just ban them. Totally. Too much risk on aircraft. Lithium battery problems (yet again) have the potential to topple a product manufacturer (and an aircraft) ... no Apple products to be carried on flights equals no Apple (eventually). Boeing had their early 787's grounded due lithium battery problems, grounding Apple WILL ensure an enduring fix, either to lithium batteries or by way of a safer power source. 'Disclaimer' our family is all Apple (except one standalone, totally isolated CAD design station), iMacs, iPads, iPhones ... and has had THREE iPhones pop their screens out with blown/swollen batteries, in the last 18 months.

markpk

markpk

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 456

Phil,

I wasn't suggesting security staff should be turning on laptops - this is an onboard issue. My suggestion was that if a MacBook user is onboard and wants to use their MacBook then its a 1 minute process to open "About This Mac" so as to show the cabin crew that the computer is not on the recall list.

Airlines around the world managed to deal with the Samsung burny phone issue without banning all Android/Samsung phones.

Apple was made aware of the issue and has followed established protocols to offer free replacements. The issue is that consumers are either being complacent or just plain ignorant.

This same issue has occurred in Australia and around the world with faulty airbags and its taken Government threats to not allow re-registration of affected vehicles for the ignorant vehicle owners to take action.

Apple should toughen up and deliver a disable trojan into affected units, rendering them unusable until the battery is replaced.

Bavarian

Bavarian

23 Aug 2012

Total posts 33

I kind of like the idea of proactively informing the relevant device owners. It doesn't need to be an update, but a tiny tool that comes with the next update / bugfix, is automatically installed, checks the serial against a local database and shows a daily reminder that the battery needs replacement.

When clicking on it the "make an appointment" at the next Apple Store link is opened, appointments are easily available on short notice (which would be new for Apple, its sometimes a longer wait than for an audience with the pope), and here we got.

Instead of selling odd time-shares or stuff at the LHR T5 BA lounge, have a repair shop there. Do this in other lounges world-wide. Within a month or two the travelling Apple lot is "clean".

Phil O'Paistree

Phil O'Paistree

10 Dec 2018

Total posts 29

markpk,

You strike the mail squarely on the head with your observation "consumers are either being complacent or just plain ignorant". Then there's the 75% that don't know exactly what model (or in some cases brand) of product they own, the (different) 75% who think putting the product in flight mode is 'turning it off' and the (different again) 75% who forgot to turn their device off. That's 225% who struggle with 'which way is up' ... must be just you and me left.


As a retired airline pilot and current, aged, design engineer (my first 'trade'), with a still mostly sound assortment of grey matter, particularly with regard to stat's, and numbers in general, consider, and only mildly toungue in cheek ...


Most long haul a/c these days tend toward 300 - 400 pax. It is numerically feasible that it would take a flight attendant, suitably trained to distinguish between a genuine and fraudulent "Safe to operate on aircraft" note of some approved type, only one minute to check YOUR "MacBook Fire" (or whatever) complies. It is statistically almost 'certainty' that you will not be the only pax wishing to operate their MacBook Fire onboard. It is also statistically possible that 360 pax board, and 360 of them are carrying a MacBook Fire and wish to operate them onboard. 360 minutes = 6 hours of checking time at one minute each. Silly odds? Ever taken a Lotto ticket and backed 'silly odds'. Someone wins. Most lose. Particularly with safety at (say) 35,000 ft.


It can't ever be an "onboard issue" (as per your claim), anymore than checking for guns and knives could be an "onboard issue". If a device has been demonstrated an unsafe hazard under certain conditions (as in turned on) then it shouldn't be on board as some/many will cheat and plead ignorance when caught. Crush and eject the device and owner in flight?


Yes, the 'burny' Samsung issue came and went ... at significant administrative cost to airlines, who recover costs from guess who ... that's right, pax ... including those who didn't contribute to the extra costs incurred. Airlines continue to 'cope' with burny issues by simply banning less 'popular and essential' hazard devices such as hoverboards, monowheels, smart (follow me) luggage and probably a host of other devices I haven't kept up with. Ban all lithium batteries on aircraft and we will see a safer, better power source 'tomorrow'.


You suggest "Apple should toughen up and deliver a disable trojan into affected units, rendering them unusable until the battery is replaced". Fair do's, but replace with what? Another lithium battery ... that hasn't 'popped' ... yet. Perhaps batteries that have been certified safe ... so far. Which, of course, is the problem. There is no such thing as an acceptably safe lithium battery at the power densities per cubic centimetre required for current, popular personal 'devices'.


I hope to read about the first unstoppable lithium battery fire that downs a commercial passenger aircraft ... rather than be on it.

Gold4Life

Gold4Life

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 13

"My suggestion was that if a MacBook user is onboard and wants to use their MacBook then its a 1 minute process to open "About This Mac" so as to show the cabin crew that the computer is not on the recall list."

I think the issue with this is that it means the cabin crew must carry around a list of 'non-approved' models and manually check every laptop. This strikes me as being very labour-intensive, especially on short flights like SYD-MEL.

"Airlines around the world managed to deal with the Samsung burny phone issue without banning all Android/Samsung phones." Yes because this was just one model of phone, and easily identifiable. Apple has so many MacBook Pro models and most of them over the past many years look exactly the same. I get that this 'blanket ban' approach is not ideal but I don't think asking cabin crew to check every MacBook Pro on board is the answer.

Concorde1990

Concorde1990

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 71

I'd question that 3 blown batteries statement. If it is true; what damage have they undergone? Are they original, genuine apple batteries? Do you use the correct charger? Are they enclosed in a case that prevents heat escaping?...

Statistically unlikely

Phil O'Paistree

Phil O'Paistree

10 Dec 2018

Total posts 29

'Tis true, sadly. About 18 months ago, original, early issue, still runs fine (excepting battery issue) iPhone 6s ... replaced by Apple with "new" refurb' unit ex their Hong Kong facility (new case, screen, battery, used board ... I understand). About two months later, original etc, iPhone 6. Local "authorised Apple repair facility" repair arranged by Apple NZ (new battery only). Three weeks ago, Dublin (on annual hol's). iPhone 6s (again), battery replaced by local "hole in wall" phone/computer repairs facility (Lynch Computer Repair, 2 Merchants Arch, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ph: +353 1 548 5324, quote inv': 11Z99856). Quick, clean repair, running fine (again). Feel free to ask if they used "genuine Apple battery", I didn't bother (Apple don't make their batteries as far as I'm aware ... all Chinese ... original, aftermarket, whatever ... likely from same factory). What damage? Didn't see first two, last one battery swollen, screen pushed out from case. There is no such thing as a case that 'prevents heat escaping'. 100% thermally efficient materials do not exist, such a case would retain all the energy EVER pumped into the battery. Both phones have a lightweight, cheapy, single sided 'gel' case. Correct charger? Yes, 2 x 2.4A + 2 x 1.2A outlets ... original? No. (Do you use genuine Apple mains power source?). Statistically unlikely? Yes. But probably way shorter is than my (and your?) weekly Lotto ticket. (Divide 'odds' by number of passengers on board).

Stuart Roberts

Stuart Roberts

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 May 2016

Total posts 3

It is easy to go onto the Mac site to get confirmation that your MacBook is ok. I did it this morning. If you are about to fly, print off the response and carry it with you. Happy flying.

OZjames70

OZjames70

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 16

If the problem is with high-density lithium-ion batteries overheating, surely safety must be the driving decision point.

Phil O'Paistree

Phil O'Paistree

10 Dec 2018

Total posts 29

OZjames70

Thank you. At least two of us appear to appreciate the serious nature of an in flight fire. Only 8 billion (odd) minus 2 to go.

flyingcuggers

flyingcuggers

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Sep 2017

Total posts 4

Flying on Friday, and have a 17" Macbook Pro. It has a hard case that can go as checked Luggage. Do I still check it in, or carry it in hand luggage. But what happens if it puts me over the 7kg limit?

Concorde1990

Concorde1990

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 71

1. ALL lithium ion batteries are to be carried in carry on ONLY. This is so that IF there is a fire it can be dealt with. Fire detection and elimination in a baggage hold is extremely difficult. (Cargo planes have special fitouts for fire detection and extermination)

2. Fly Qantas. They have a 14 kg total limit (single piece limit of 10 kg)

flyingcuggers

flyingcuggers

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Sep 2017

Total posts 4

Thanks Concorde1990! Yes normally fly Qantas and appreciate their higher kg limit, but this trip is for a group that's gone with Virgin.


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