FAA Warns Airlines about 2015 15-inch MacBook Pros

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2019/08/14/faa-warns-airlines-about-2015-15-inch-macbook-pros/

You may have trouble flying with a recalled 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro due to its potential fire hazard. It remains to be seen how airline and airport staff will distinguish between affected and unaffected units and those whose batteries have been replaced.

I just had my MBP’s battery replaced. Twice actually, the second time they replaced the top plate assembly, with a new keyboard. It looks great! I do have the letter from Apple acknowledging the repair, so I’m hoping that will be enough to let TSA know I’m flying with a safe machine. I’m curious if they will start asking TSA Pre-Check passengers to start removing their laptops from carry on bags. I’m flying in a week, so will update folks as to what happened.

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Ah! That letter from Apple may be the key bit of proof to bring, just in case.

My MBP is a “MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015)”. But when I plug my serial number into the Apple support site, I get:

The serial number you entered is not eligible under this program because either:
* It's not in the affected serial number range
* Our records show that your device has already been serviced as part of this program.

I purchased the MBP new on eBay in June, 2017, and have not had any service done on it. The message is not reassuring, as it doesn’t explicitly say why my MBP is safe. How do I convince a TSA agent that my MBP is safe to fly with?

Print that page?

@neil1 - yep, that’s all I could think to do. I printed out that page and taped it to the bottom of the laptop.

I’ve been on the phone with Apple about this for the past 30 minutes. The two reps I had, including the next higher level “senior” one seemed totally unaware of the FAA action. They had no solution and could only send me a copy of the shipping notice when my repair was made–which doesn’t mention the battery replacement at all.

Fortunately I’d scanned the AppleCare Service “Product Repair Summary” that was in the box of my returned MacBook Pro and now have a printout of that in my carry-on. But, as Forbes reported this week, even if you have a repair slip, “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.”

Come on, Apple–can’t you create an official sticker listing the serial number of the repaired product so we could affix it to the bottom of the MacBook Pro to “prove” battery replacement status? I’m not one for “sticking” stuff on my computers, but this could really help a lot of us…

(And, yes, I put this “idea” in the Apple.com/feedback area…for what good that will do…)

What the FAA basically has done is ban ALL 15" Apple laptops and most likely the others also. Why? Because the overworked TSA agents won’t be able to tell which of the thousands of MacBooks carried on planes are the limited number of affected units. First, Apple refuses to release a list of the affected serial numbers so the agents will go the lowest common denominator route and refuse all of them. Even if a list is released the agents won’t have the time to try to compare the minuscule serial number on the bottom of the laptop to the list. Actually there would have to be two lists each updated daily: one listing UNrepaired serial numbers, and one listing the repaired serial numbers. Since the laptops are also banned from checked baggage, there are going to be hundreds if not thousands of irate business passengers affected.

The FAA couldn’t have come up with a more stupid policy; it is as if they WANT to cause major disruption of air travel and lose any respect the US citizen might have had for the agency. Thank goodness I was able to travel with my MacBook Air a few weeks ago to move it .

Or make it wallpaper on your desktop!

This is terrible. Has anyone experienced issues with newer MacBook Pros being confused with the older problematic versions?

David, not all 15" MBP of that type are affected. As it says on Apple’s support page (emphasis mine):

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.

The response you see on Apple’s website just means that your particular device is not affected by the battery issue. Hence, there’s no need to fix it and it is, thus, “not eligible under the program.”

I’m not sure if that ban is supposed to be in effect already, but when I traveled from SFO to Vancouver, BC, and back this week, no-one in security even seemed to notice that I was hauling a 15" MBP.

So even if such a ban would be in effect, it still would not mean that it’s enforced on a wider scale. It’d still be a good idea to bring a print-out of Apple’s recall page with your particular machine’s serial number entered, I assume.

Any updates from anyone flying domestically in September/early October? I’m looking for real-world experiences (which airport(s), please) flying with a “repaired” 15-inch MacBook Pro. Thanks!