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Tuesday, September 05, 2006, 02:00 pm PT (05:00 pm ET)

Korean Air bans Apple, Dell notebooks on board

Korean Air has forbidden the use of Dell and Apple laptop PCs during flight due to the risk of battery explosion, according to the Korean Times.

The Korean national flag carrier said yesterday that the ban was put in place after the two computer manufacturers announced a recall of batteries used in some of their notebook models.

"Due to the risk of onboard fire, we are not allowing passengers to use certain brands of laptops on the plane. Safety always comes first for us," a Korean Air spokesperson told the Times, adding they were unsure when the ban would be lifted.

Although the airline is prohibiting all models of Dell notebooks and Apple's PowerBook and iBook systems, users can reportedly continue to carry them on board the flight if they separate the batteries into checked baggage.

"We have put notices at check-in counters and boarding gates but we don’t inspect all carry-on baggage," a gate attendant told the Times.

Korean Air is the second airline to restrict the in-flight use of Dell and Apple notebooks in recent weeks. Late last month, Australia's Qantas announced a similar policy.

Both Dell and Apple have questioned the airlines' decision. An Apple Korea spokesperson called the new policy an overreaction, while a Dell product manager said the airlines could "easily check out whether a laptop uses a Sony battery or other brand instead of banning them all."

In what has been dubbed the two largest consumer electronics recalls in history, Dell last month recalled 4.1 million notebook batteries followed by Apple recalling 1.8 million — all of which included cells manufactured by Sony Corp.

The notebook battery packs contain cells of rolled up metal strips. Sony has said that during production, crimping the rolls left tiny shards of metal loose in the cells, which could cause the batteries to short-circuit.