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How to avoid the MacBook Pro flight ban

(Image credit: Ross Parmly on Unsplash)

An increasing number of airlines worldwide are banning passengers from travelling with a MacBook Pro, following fears about fire risks. Given that it's one of the best laptops for graphic design right now, this is going to pose a problem for many jet-setting creatives. In this article, we explain everything you should know about the MacBook Pro flight ban, including how to know whether or not you will be affected, and how to travel safely with your Apple laptop in tow.

First up, how did the ban come about? In June 2019, Apple spotted a potential fault in the batteries of certain MacBook Pros that could cause them to overheat, posing a safety risk. It asked owners of certain 15-inch MacBook Pros sold between September 2015 and February 2017 to return their machines for a battery replacement.

The recall understandably caused concerns about those travelling with the affected models on flights – no one wants a fire on a plane, after all. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) alerted US airlines of the potential risks, and many airlines responded by banning affected MacBooks. To avoid having to individually check different MacBook Pro models, some airlines opted for a blanket ban approach – not ideal. 

So if you need to take a MacBook Pro on a plane, what do you need to know?

How do I check if my laptop is affected? 

The first step is to check if your laptop is one of those with a potential battery fault. To find this out, click the Apple icon on your homescreen, then select 'About this Mac'. If your model is MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015), then copy out the serial number and enter it into Apple's official recall list to see if your machine is amongst those affected.

If it is, Apple requests you stop using the machine immediately. You should return the laptop to your nearest Apple Store or authorised service provider for a free battery replacement. This is probably a good idea even if you're not jetting off anywhere anytime soon. 

Can I travel with my MacBook Pro if it's not affected?

If your MacBook Pro isn't one of those at risk of fault, or if you've had the battery replaced, theoretically you should be absolutely fine to travel with it. However, you might still find it a problem. Asking airport staff to check every MacBook Pro that passes through the airport is time-consuming and prone to human error, some airlines are taking a blanket ban approach, and not allowing any MacBook Pros (or MacBooks in general) on flights at all. 

Read on for a list of the airline policies we know about at the moment, but be aware that rules differ between different companies – some allow them in hand luggage only, others require them to be switched off for travel, others are banning them completely. Also, more airlines are getting involved all the time.

In general, we'd recommend not travelling with your MacBook Pro unless you absolutely need to. If you do need to bring it with you, call your airline ahead of your travel date to find out their policy and advice on the MacBook Pro flight ban. If official guidance says you can bring it, make sure it's packed in hand luggage rather than your hold bag.

Been put off getting a MacBook? Here's our guide to the best MacBook Pro alternatives for designers.

Which airlines are banning MacBook Pros?

So which airlines are banning passengers from travelling with their MacBook Pros? Here's a list of the airlines we know of, at time of writing:

  • All major US airlines
  • TUI Group Airlines
  • Thomas Cook Airlines
  • Air Italy
  • Air Transat
  • Virgin Australia (banned from hold luggage only, all MacBooks included)
  • Qantas Airlines (banned from hold luggage only)
  • Singapore Airlines (SIA)
  • Thai Airways
  • All flights within Vietnam and India

While US airlines have gone for an outright ban following advice from the FAA, in Europe, the ban is a little less strict. The EASA has issued a safety bulletin that requests that passengers travelling with MacBook Pros be required to keep the devices switched off and not charged during the flight. This approach is also being taken by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways. Our sister site TechRadar also has a guide to the airlines affected.

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