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Virgin Atlantic Bans Dell, Apple Laptops 205

Posted by kdawson
from the security-theater-starring-batteries dept.
TechFreep writes, "Amid a slew of incidents involving exploding Sony batteries, Virgin Atlantic announced that it won't allow passengers to use batteries in any Apple or Dell laptops on flights. The announcement, posted on Virgin's website, said that passengers may carry on the laptop itself, but batteries must be properly wrapped and stowed away in carry-on for the duration of the flight. However, the airline provided no details as to what proper wrapping entails. For those who wish to use a laptop while on the plane, Virgin plans to provide power adapters on flights where outlets are available." Will Virgin allow on board exploding Sony batteries in IBM ThinkPads?
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Virgin Atlantic Bans Dell, Apple Laptops

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  • Seat power outlets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Saturday September 16, 2006 @06:47PM (#16122161) Homepage Journal
    Virgin plans to provide power adapters on flights where outlets are available."

    Well, this is the problem with most flights, particularly those that last longer than 3 or 4 hours. Specifically, there are simply not enough power outlets in the seats. So, if the airlines want to ban laptop batteries, and they want to maintain business, how about installing more power outlets? Its sad, but a classic case of airline security taking care of the problem after the problem has been identified and dealt with rather than being proactive in their plans. What this sort of behavior is doing, along with all of the other lame security procedures like taking off belts, shoes and sandals is simply making airline travel more onerous.

    I can't tell you how frustrating it is to have to try and work on a flight after security delays of sometimes hours have meant getting on board with a laptop battery that is drained only to find out there is no power port on board the flight. Even worse, on several Delta flights where they were *supposed* to have power outlets in the seats, they have been non-functional.

    • by couchslug (175151)
      "getting on board with a laptop battery that is drained"

      Easily solved. I carry a spare,charged battery. While waiting in terminals, I plug in my wall wart and run from that while keeping my Thinkpad charged, minimizing battery use.

      • by BWJones (18351) *
        Sure, I carry a couple of batteries, but that only buys you 3-4 hours. What if the flight is an international flight?

        • by nxtw (866177)
          Get a better laptop. With the additional 12-cell battery plus the internal 6-cell, my laptop has an estimated battery life of 16 hours (6 on the internal, 10 on the additional). That'd probably work out to 10 hours or so while playing a movie.
        • At that height I bet the efficiency on a solar charger [amazon.com] would be enough to charge a spare battery, you can also ask the airline if you can mount it on the outside of the plane like the RVers do. I'm sure pilots from the south will understand.
        • by dindi (78034)
          hmm, while mi toshiba dies in 1 hour, my new HP lasts for 4+ hours, using wireless, browsing the net, and dong stuff ..... i guess reading a document, or similar would make it for 4.5 hours (official battery time) while wathcing a movie would drain it in 3 hours ....

          still 2 batteries will fly you to europe, and somehow I always find an airport plug to leach some free juice into my devices (no one ever came up to me telling not to use an outlet) :)

          my point is : i have a good and a shitty laptop, get one
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Fred_A (10934)
            hmm, while mi toshiba dies in 1 hour, my new HP lasts for 4+ hours, using wireless, browsing the net, and dong stuff
            I don't know what airlines you fly but most won't let you use your dong in the cabin.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Brandybuck (704397)
          Bring a book! You can fit four to six good paperback books in the space taken up by a laptop.
          • True, but they do weigh a lot more. For travelling, I now primarily use my Nokia 770 as an eBook reader. It is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, has a gorgeous screen, and the battery lasts across the Atlantic. Combined with a quick visit to Project Gutenberg, it's a good way of providing my literary fix.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by krunk4ever (856261)
      Um... If there are power outlets, just bring along a surge protector and guess what, now you can share! I don't know how much power each outlet can output, but I'm more than certain it can do more than 1 laptop per outlet.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        I don't know how much power each outlet can output, but I'm more than certain it can do more than 1 laptop per outlet.

        Don't count on that. The last one I used (on a new Air Canada Embraer 190) had only enough power available to charge the battery *or* run the laptop (a Dell D610).

        Until the battery was fully charged, I had to leave the laptop turned off or else the breaker would trip every 2 minutes.

      • by devilspgd (652955) *
        You would be mistaken about that certainty. First off, it's not a 120V three prong plug like you're used to using at home, but rather, a car lighter type socket.

        Technically you could go to AC, split it, and have two or more people connect into a power strip, but there are some serious amperage limits, which will be made worse by the loss of going from DC to AC and back to DC again -- If you have a bit of a power hungry notebook to begin with, you'll often need to remove the battery as the socket may not be
        • The majority of power outlets I've seen on international flights are 120VAC outlets.
        • From what limited experience I have with airplane power outlets, it appears that Boeing prefers the car style power adapters (15VDC) while Airbus prefers standards real power outlets with AC. Don't know why that is.
          • by devilspgd (652955) *
            It is probably based on the electrical systems already on the plane -- And I tend to fly Boeing, which is why I've not seen the 120V systems anywhere myself.

            What's the amperage like on the 120V systems?
    • if the airlines want to ban laptop batteries, and they want to maintain business

      Like it or not, people are not going to not travel if they can't use a laptop on the flight.

      • by sjf (3790)
        Actually, I think it is more likely that companies will change their purchasing policies to exclude Apple and Dell if this remains anything more than a temporary measure.
    • by dubl-u (51156) *
      Well, this is the problem with most flights, particularly those that last longer than 3 or 4 hours. Specifically, there are simply not enough power outlets in the seats.

      For some airlines, this is completely intentional. If they put outlets only in business class, then people who are making money from laptop use will share that money with the airlines. This screws the people who can't justify paying $50-200 per hour for an outlet and a big chair, of course. But given the precarious financial conditions of t
  • Outrageous. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 16, 2006 @06:48PM (#16122163)
    Dell I can understand. However there have been no reported cases of Apple laptops causing any risk to an airplane. I hereby announce a boycott of Virgin Atlantic air lines until this idiotic policy is reversed and Virgin gets back on the cluetrain.

    If action is not taken within 24 hours I may have to start an Internet petition to augment my activist efforts here so described.
    • Re:Outrageous. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Suddenly_Dead (656421) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @06:54PM (#16122187)
      There are no cases of Dell laptops causing risks to airplanes either, are there? Both varieties of laptops have certain models which use exploding Sony batteries, which is the heart of the issue. Why are the Apple laptops different in this circumstance? Or are you just on the Dell-bashing and/or Apple-loving bandwagon(s)?
    • OH GOD NO (Score:5, Funny)

      by bunions (970377) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:00PM (#16122214)
      Not an Internet Petition!! I mean, sure, they're terribly evil people, but let's not get crazy and do things we'll regret down the line. I'm sure there's less extreme ways to get your point across.
    • On top of that, what's the risk? How many have exploded? Something like one in a million? And how bad are the explosions?

      Something tells me it's a lot riskier to let pilots fly without a blood test.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by devilspgd (652955) *
      How often do you fly on Virgin? Do you have any status there (awarded due to mileage?) If not, do you think they'll care?

      As far as the internet petition, those tend to be worth the paper they're printed on, so I'm sure the airline will care there too.
      • I will be flying Virgin Atlantic in just under two weeks, and I own an Apple PowerBook. I tend not to use it on flights though, so it's not a huge problem for me. From the wording, I should be able to keep the machine with me, turned off, without any problems, which is all I really want to do.
  • Meh. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eosp (885380) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @06:48PM (#16122167) Homepage
    Closing the barn door after the horse is long gone.
  • I know my ancient sony will not work without the battery inserted. And I cant even figure out how to get the battery out of my brothers new HP.
    • by LoRdTAW (99712)
      Ah never mind the comment abou tthe HP, just found the release button. An it does work without the battery. Is my sony one of the few that cannot run without the battery?
      • by rolfwind (528248)
        I would think so. Even my ancient 1996ish P266 Compaq laptop works without a battery when connected to the power.
        • The PowerBook has a small internal battery which allows it to run for a few minutes without mains power or the main battery present. The aim of this is to allow users to swap batteries out in the field.
      • I have an old NEC Versa 4080H laptop that is so old that Windows 98 barely runs with any speed. The thing has a completely dead battery but will only run on AC adapter. The thing is that the battery must be installed for the laptop to run. Strange design, but I don't really use it very much.

        I hope that laptop manufacturers have designed current models to be able to run using either battery or adapter power. I would hate to have to get an airline to give me and AC outlet capable of doing 120 watts so my c
        • by jandrese (485)
          Fortunatly most laptop manufacturers gave up that "feature" around the time Mhz ratings started hitting triple digits.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 16, 2006 @06:56PM (#16122197)
    This is worse. The batteries do not have to be in the computer to have this issue. It is better to have them in the plane where people are, so the possible fire could be put out. If a battery explodes in the cargo area where nobody is there to put it out, the outcome could be far more tragic! They should have done their research prior to mandating this change...

    (Unless their "proper packaging" includes automatic sprinkler systems)
    • I would imagine that jets are equipped with some sort of fire surpression system in the hold.

      Maybe another s/.er can confirm.
      • by ptbarnett (159784)
        I would imagine that jets are equipped with some sort of fire surpression system in the hold.

        US airlines moved quickly to install fire suppression systems in their cargo hold after the ValuJet plane crash in 1996. Some airlines didn't even wait for the FAA to require it.

      • by DingerX (847589) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @03:52AM (#16123814) Journal
        Hold fire suppression systems are not that I know mandatory, and if they were, it is questionable whether they'd be effective on a Li-Ion fire. There's a discussion about just this stuff going on at the NTSB right now, since laptop batteries are strongly suspected in a recent hull-loss. From the July 12-13 hearing [ntsb.gov] about the UPS DC-8 that burned right after landing back in February. They found plenty of laptop batteries in the hold, most of them crisped. Cause has not been assigned yet, but
        2. Design, Testing, and Failure Modes of Lithium Batteries.

        * Testimony about lithium batteries will include discussions of their benefits and their hazards, as well as their safety features and failure histories.

        3. Operations and Regulations concerning Lithium Batteries.

        * Discussion under this topic will focus on the requirements involving air transportation of lithium batteries--including differences in these requirements between passenger and cargo aircraft--and ways in which the hazards associated with lithium batteries can be minimized and finally,

        4. Aircraft Fire Detection and Suppression Systems and Regulations

        * The Safety Board has issued recommendations in the past for incorporation of detection and suppression systems on commercial aircraft. Discussion under this topic will include a review of technology and regulations of these systems, difficulties and challenges that these systems may bring, and differences in these areas as they pertain to both passenger and cargo aircraft.
        At that meeting, they noted a case in December, in Chicago:
        Several lithium battery incidents have occurred in recent years, including a lithium-ion battery fire that occurred less than two months ago on an airplane in Chicago. Flight attendants used extinguishers on an overhead bag that was smoking. The bag was removed from the airplane and placed on the ramp, where it then caught fire. The fire apparently started from a spare laptop battery being carried in the bag.


        In these cases, the batteries were not on, nor even in computers. The things are dangerous.
  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @06:58PM (#16122208) Homepage
    Amid a slew of incidents involving exploding Sony batteries, Virgin Atlantic announced that it won't allow passengers to use batteries in any Apple or Dell laptops on flights.

    That shouldn't be a problem for people with Apple machines. I hear those are capable of running solely on one's own sense of self-superiority.
  • I am sure a fire in the luggage section of the plane is so much easier to control than a fire in the cabin.

    Or is this rule to prevent someone from using the battery as a weapon? Powerbook terrorist: "Turn this plane around, or this battery will certainly explode"
  • by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:06PM (#16122234)
    Why discriminate by brand and/or type of hardware being used? Any battery can be rigged to explode into flame simply by creating a short circuit. I learned this the hard way several years ago after sticking a coin into a AA battery port on one of those electronic kits. The coin super heated and starting making small flames near the batteries as the current flowed directly from the batteries and back without a load.
    • by sholden (12227)
      I highly doubt your coin superheated. The chances that a pool of 5300F melted coin just made small flames seem vanishingly small...
      • I highly doubt your coin superheated. The chances that a pool of 5300F melted coin just made small flames seem vanishingly small...

        Yeah, this was mostly a figure of speech, rather than literal. After I submitted the parent post, I realized then that someone was probably going to bring this up.
    • Pants on Fire (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cyberformer (257332)
      I used to keep spare AA batteries in my pockets, alongside coins and keys. I learned a very painful lesson not to do that anymore.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Obviously it's not about terrorism as you assumed. Somebody saw that flaming battery picture on the Internet, and thought that would be bad to have on a plane. But effective terrorist weapon? Hardly.
      • by Fred_A (10934)
        The recent British made "terror scare" where the terrorists apparently had to setup a chemistry lab in a dark corner of the plane for a few hours (hoping it wouldn't blow up in their face) didn't seem to be that much of a great terrorist weapon idea either. Yet look at the mess it created in airports worldwide.

        Whoever is hired to come up with those regulations doesn't seem to have a very firm grasp of real life. In the end the only way to travel safely would be ship anesthesiated people stark naked (after t
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Doppler00 (534739)
      Actually, pretty much any lithium-ion battery is extremely dangerious and flammable under the right conditions. The only thing preventing most batteries from bursting into flames is a tiny IC that controls the charge/discharge current of the battery. I've seen a video where your standard lithium-ion battery is punctured and the battery instantly starts bursting into flames. A reaction with atmosphere is all that is needed.

      Lead acid batteries on the other hand are even more dangerous, luckily, these are alre
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by daverabbitz (468967)
        A lead acid battery is *not* more dangerous than a Lithium battery. It does provide a higher short-circuit current in general because of the design of said battery, however...

        * An SLA doesn't explode if punctured, it just leaks corrosive paste everywhere (still nasty).

        * An SLA doesn't explode if overcharged, it generally just busts open and leaks the corrosive paste.

        * An SLA doesn't explode if undercharged, it just sulfates the plates causing the battery to not work well.

        * An SLA doesn't explode if shorted
    • by mkiwi (585287) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @09:44PM (#16122742)
      In 2002 I went to a conference in San José California. It was a technology conference for young engeering students and had CEO's of many large companies (such as Intel) making speeches. We also toured Silicon Valley, got a chance to visit Apple, Cisco, etc. inside the buildings and we toured all the nearby Universities in the Bay Area, including Berkeley, UCSC, etc.


      I had a special item wish me- an ultra powerful rechargable battery-powered flashlight. I had not perfected the design (I had not even tried to design a case) and I ended up using high capacity handset batteries from Radio Shack to power the thing. All in all, there were about 51,000mWH of power strapped to what was little more than a assembly to hold the lights and a separate double-sided copper pcb that all the anode and cathode terminals were connected to.

      The thing worked great, it was incredibly bright (it used three high luminosity light bulbs), it just looked like a bomb. I mean, the little battery cells looked like mini sticks of dynamite ready to explode at any time.

      Only problem was I did not consider airport baggage handlers in my design. They ended up cutting the sheathing of one of the positive wires with the copper clad PCB. Of course, it had to be in the negative terminal, which burned a huge hole in my polyester bag, burned through two pairs of shorts, and melted a toothpaste tube, all tucked away inside the cargo cabin of the plane.

      I was not pleased to find out that my great invention had been so easily destroyed (for heaven's sake it was the ultimate rechargeable flashlight!). My uncle found out about the incident and gave me a fire extinguisher rated for electric fires for Christmas. T.t (crying face)

      Looking back, how the hell did they even allow that device on the plane? That could have seriously damaged someone's luggage (besides mine) and filled the cabin with toxic smoke, or worse yet exploded inside the cargo cabin, all 51Wh of it all. Banning ALL Apple and ALL Dell batteries, not just those made by Sony, is shortsighted and likely a decision made by a very uninformed person. My battery was more a risk to the plane then any of the Sony batteries and they inspected it and let me on. What gives?

  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joel8x (324102) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:11PM (#16122246) Homepage
    So, even if you are using a 3rd party battery or have one of the replaced ones, you know they won't let you use it anyway. That's one less airline I will be using. Stupid. Just stupid.

    Why not ban all muslims from airplanes, since a few muslims hijacked some airplanes? IT'S THE SAME THOUGHT PROCESS. You think the muslims are pissed about the pope right now? Wait 'till you piss off some Apple fanatics - then you will be in a living hell.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by value_added (719364)
      Why not ban all muslims from airplanes, since a few muslims hijacked some airplanes? IT'S THE SAME THOUGHT PROCESS. You think the muslims are pissed about the pope right now? Wait 'till you piss off some Apple fanatics - then you will be in a living hell.

      Even worse - Muslim Mac users!

      The DHS should add that category to their profile Top Ten List, right above Weird Looking Guys with Beards.
    • Apple fanatics don't firebomb Anglican churches just because a Roman Catholic suggested they refrain from violence.
      • by Megane (129182)

        Apple fanatics don't firebomb Anglican churches just because a Roman Catholic suggested they refrain from violence.

        That's right. It's the Linux fanatics that firebomb Anglican churches just because a Roman Catholic suggested they use Windows.

    • by PW2 (410411)
      > You think the muslims are pissed about the pope right now?

      They'll show him eventually -- just keep burning and killing to show how violent they aren't.
    • by anothy (83176)
      i think you might be missing one tiny difference here. let me see if i can try to clarify this subtle point:

      muslims are people. batteries are inatimate objects.

      people, which we've established muslims are a subset of, have rights, including the right of religious freedom and freedom from discrimination based on said religion. there are other, differences, too. one can check to see if a battery is the affected model by simple inspection of its serial number. humans don't come with easy ways to check if they
  • Ugly hack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MoogMan (442253) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:13PM (#16122253)
    /me tapes over the DELL sticker
  • Welly welly well! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aarku (151823) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:23PM (#16122280) Journal
    As an iBook user, I hereby ban my use of Virgin Atlantic!
  • Seems like it to me... The whole thing is just too silly to be taken seriously.
  • by mhocker (607466) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:29PM (#16122293)
    Oh, and how are us MacBook Pro users going to use the "inflight power" with our monster 85 watt power supplies that don't work on ANY airline?

    No toothpaste, no pocket knives, now no laptop. I'm really getting sick of the air travel nazis. It's making the "won't you think of the children" bunch look sane.
    • by Duncan3 (10537)
      Use iChat and stay home...

      There is zero excuse for busness travel anymore.
    • Perhaps you should petition Apple re that, not the airline. There's only a finite amount of power available on the aircraft - it's not their fault Apple's laptops guzzle juice like there's no tomorrow. More powerful laptops come with smaller AC adapters, after all.
    • by Megane (129182)
      You do know that a good deal of that 85 watts is for charging the batteries, right? You don't need that big of a power supply if you aren't charging batteries.
    • by Pfhor (40220)
      Easy, buy the 65 watt power supplies for the Macbooks. Work on the MacBook Pros, and are smaller. I keep one 85watt at home, the other at the office, and a 65watt in my backpack. It just charges slower.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:35PM (#16122312)
    Will Virgin allow on board exploding Sony batteries in IBM ThinkPads?

    Any battery that is currently exploding is probably not allowed, regardless of make.

  • My Dell laptop is so old that it isn't subject to the recall, but Virgin's ban is for all Dell laptops.

    Ah well.
  • The announcement, posted on Virgin's website, said that passengers may carry on the laptop itself, but batteries must be properly wrapped and stowed away in carry-on for the duration of the flight.

    Be sure to use lots of layers of tinfoil wrapped tightly around the battery! :-D
  • How does banning batteries for two laptop brands equal banning the laptops themselves?
  • In case you fly Virgin and are lucky enough to get a seat with a power source for your iBook or PowerBook, keep this in mind:
    http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/13/ 1710258 [slashdot.org]
    For the life of me, I cannot grasp that the hell is in the minds of these corporate lackeys. Will they ever realize that assembling things on the cheap not only endangers lives, but ends up costing tons more in the long run, by way of recalls, damage control and alienated customers?

    That said, now that Apple is doing a massive
  • I'd be scared shitless of the ones in the cargo bay in checked-in luggage, especially now that no one can carry the usual huge pile of crap into the cabin, or the pallet-load of battery packs in cargo. Even the ones stuffed in the overhead bins are more dangerous than the ones on your tray table, which if it catches on fire, will quickly be tossed hot-potato style to a waiting army of flight attendants with extinguishers, trained to deal with the situation.

    Sounds like defensive lawyering.

    And there are subst
  • ...send out nice authentic laminated Apple business card-sized list of the serial number of the fubared batteries to all the airports it can muster. It's absurd to have all of something banned because some of them may have a problem.
    • by FFFish (7567)
      er, absurd, at least, when the problematic ones are so easily identified.
  • The answer is simple. Don't fly virgin. I haven't flown virgin since that sophmore trip to Europe.
  • the airline provided no details as to what proper wrapping entails

    "Here is some duct tape. Please affix your laptop to the underside of the plane. If your laptop falls off in the course of the flight, we will refund you the cost of the tape."
  • Good thing I don't have to use them on Virgin [virgin-atlantic.com].

    My PowerBook goes everywhere with me; not close by, not partially disassembled, but sleeping nearby and ready to be used.

    I like Virgin but they can go to hell. And I'm not booking any more long haul BizTrip in Virgin Upper Class either.

    I'll give the Biz to a more rational airline.
  • It is really stupid beyond belief to ban only those manufacturers who recalled batteries, makeing their models in fact much safer than other manufacturers, especially those no-names that actually pose a higher risk because people don't even know that their batteries are dangerous.

    They should have either banned *all* Li-Ion batteries, or find other ways how to deal with it, e.g. put fire-proof cases or asbestos bags/blankets on the plane where they can drop a burning laptop into. On Lufthansa planes you were
  • The Dell recall affects some 4.1 million batteries, which is only about 18% of those sold over the last few years. The Apple recall affects 1.1 million batteries, a similar fraction of their products.

    Of the six batteries in my household (some dell, some apple), just one of those has been recalled. There are far more Dell and Apple batteries out there that aren't affected by the recall than are. If someone were able to furbish documentation that their battery is in the clear, will Virgin be able to c

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