If you own a MacBook Pro, especially the 15.4-inch variety, you should be aware that the batteries can overheat and catch fire.
Apple issued a recall on some models in June, saying that, “in a limited number of older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro units, the battery may overheat and pose a fire safety risk.” The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 432,000 units in the U.S. and another 26,000 in Canada are affected by the recall.
Apple says you should immediately stop using any of the affected models and contact Apple for a free replacement battery.
Despite the recall, several airlines and aviation safety agencies have recently become concerned that the problem could be more widespread and dangerous than Apple has acknowledged.
According to Bloomberg news, there have been several incidents in which devices with lithium ion batteries have caught fire in planes’ passenger compartments, although none so far has gotten out of control. There have been at least three reports since 2006, including two fatalities, on cargo plans when lithium ion batteries were suspected of catching fire.
Some MacBook Pros are banned from checked luggage or refused altogether
Both Thai Airways International PCL and Singapore Airlines Ltd. had already begun refusing to accept the affected models on planes, either as carry-ons or in luggage.
Now, Qantas Airways Ltd. has decided to bar some MacBook Pros from checked luggage. Instead, passengers need to switch off the devices and carry them on to the flight. Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. has also banned all Apple laptops from checked luggage.
Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration sent out an alert to U.S.-based airlines about the Apple recall. It asked airlines to follow safety instructions it had issued in 2016 for devices with recalled batteries. Those safety instructions would bar the affected laptops from flights altogether, whether checked or carried on. Meanwhile the European Union Aviation Safety Agency warned European carriers about the affected MacBook Pros on August 1.
The issue goes beyond airline safety
A battery fire on a flight could potentially be catastrophic, but it could be dangerous in many other situations, too. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall notice, there have been at least 26 reports of MacBook Pro batteries overheating and catching flame. There were five reports involving minor burns and one involving smoke inhalation. Seventeen reports involved damage to nearby personal property.
Apple says that only MacBook Pro 15-inch laptops with certain serial numbers are included in the recall. To determine if yours is, obtain the serial number for the underside of the computer or by going to the Apple menu and choosing “About This Mac.” Then, enter the serial number into the query field at https://support.apple.com/15-inch-macbook-pro-battery-recall.
Manufacturers and others in the product supply chain are considered strictly liable for any injuries their products cause when consumers use them as expected.