The FAA has banned hundreds of thousands of MacBook Pros from flying due to fire hazard. That is great because nobody wants to go down in a plane because of a faulty battery. But the fact is that it will be a pain to screen the affected units at the boarding gate — and that could affect millions of MacBook Pro users.
Back on June 20, Apple announced a voluntary recall of some 15-inch MacBook Pros sold between September 2015 and February 2017. These MacBooks have a battery issue that can cause them to catch fire (opens in new tab). Looking at the serial numbers specified by Apple, that’s about 460,000 units sold in the US and Canada.
Following those news, the FAA has reminded everyone that those recalled units are banned from flights, just like it did with the good old Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fireball: “The FAA reminds passengers that recalled batteries do not fly. Avoid carrying recalled batteries when flying until repaired/replaced per manufacturer instructions.”
The FAA linked to the news of the Apple recall in that tweet. According to Bloomberg, four airlines have already announced they are going to start screening these MacBooks at the gate and before take off.
The only problem is that this screening is going to be complicated and will most probably become extremely annoying for millions of MacBook Pro users and regular passengers alike.
The reason is that all MacBook Pros 15 since the June 2012 Retina model have looked basically the same until the 2016 Touch Bar model. And there’s not an easy way to identify them. With the Galaxy Note 7, boarding gate personnel could look at your phone, see “Note 7”, and ban it from flying. But with the MacBook Pro, they will need to screen your computer in a more detailed way.
First, you will have to turn your MacBook Pro on, log in, and show them your unit model name in the “About This Mac” from the Apple menu. Assuming they have the information readily available to compare, the boarding gate peeps can then discard any computers that don’t say “MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015)”
If your model is a MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015), then you will need to go to this page (opens in new tab) and enter your serial model, which is located in the System Information app or in the “About This Mac” panel. If the page says your computer is fine, then you can fly.
If your computer is flagged but it has already went to Apple for repair, then you will have to show proof of the repair to the airline people and hope they let you in.
This sounds like a lot of fun for everyone involved — including the people waiting in line behind you at the boarding gate.