MacBook laptop flight ban may herald wider crackdown

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Apple’s popular MacBook Pro laptops are often seen in use during flights in Australia – but now they must be switched off in aircraft cabins and they may no longer be packed in checked baggage.

Apple announced in June “a voluntary recall of a limited number of older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro units which contain a battery that may overheat and pose a safety risk”.

The laptops were sold between September 2015 and February 2017 and can be identified by their product serial number, according to the company’s notice.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) then acted.

“The FAA is aware of the recalled batteries that are used in some Apple MacBook Pro laptops. In early July, we alerted airlines about the recall, and we informed the public,” the FAA said in an statement emailed to National Public Radio in the US.

“We issued reminders to continue to follow instructions about recalls outlined in the 2016 FAA Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 16011, and provided information provided to the public on FAA’s Packsafe website: https://www.faa.gov/hazmat/packsafe/,” the FAA added.

Singapore’s Straits Times reported on Monday that Singapore Airlines and some other airlines had banned Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops from all flights.

The ban has now spread to Australia, with Qantas and Virgin Australia enforcing it, according to News.com.au and other sources yesterday.

“All Apple MacBook Pros must be carried in cabin baggage and switched off for flight following a recall notice issued by Apple,” a joint statement by Qantas and Virgin stated, as cited by News.com.au

The ban comes as Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is reported to be beefing up penalties for infractions, with on-the-spot fines of between AUD 6000 and AUD 10,000 under consideration if forbidden items such as party poppers or sparklers are found in luggage.

Items forbidden on aircraft include insect spray in aerosol cans, bleach and oven cleaner, party poppers, sparklers, firelighters and self-balancing or hoverboards.

CASA is seeking public submissions on the proposal, saying “the ability to issue fines to passengers will also assist in lifting the level of awareness of dangerous goods, and the risks they present when carried on board an aircraft or when hidden by passengers in checked-in baggage,” according to The Australian.

The paper reported that CASA also wants airlines to introduce a “mandatory challenge” to passengers about whether they have dangerous goods in their luggage.

Under the proposed change, check-in staff would be compelled by law to ask every passenger about the contents of their luggage before domestic and international flights. That sometimes happens already, but this would make it heavier and mandatory.

Written by Peter Needham

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