'Checkpoint friendly' laptop bags now allowed

To speed up the security process and better protect laptops, starting August 16 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will allow passengers to leave their laptop computers in bags that meet new 'checkpoint friendly' standards.

TSA asked laptop bag manufacturers to design bags that will produce a clear and unobstructed image of the laptop when undergoing X-ray screening. Designs meeting this objective will let TSA allow laptops to remain in bags for screening.

For a bag to be considered checkpoint friendly it should meet the following standards:

  • A designated laptop-only section
  • The laptop-only section completely unfolds to lay flat on the X-ray belt
  • No metal snaps, zippers or buckles inside, underneath or on top of the laptop-only section
  • No pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section
  • Nothing packed in the laptop-only section other than the computer itself.

Here are some designs of 'checkpoint friendly' laptop bags:

Checkpoint friendly laptop bag designs

If you intend to use a 'checkpoint friendly' laptop bag once they are on the market, make sure to check that:

  • Your laptop bag has a designated laptop-only section that can lay flat on the X-ray belt
  • There are no metal snaps, zippers or buckles inside, underneath or on-top of the laptop-only section
  • There are no pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section
  • There is nothing in the laptop compartment other than the laptop
  • You have completely unfolded your bag so that there is nothing above or below the laptop-only section, allowing the bag to lay flat on the X-ray belt

Remember, a well designed 'checkpoint friendly' bag must be packed appropriately if you intend to leave your laptop in your bag for screening.

TSA screens laptops to see if the electronics have been tampered with. Security screeners know what the inside of a computer should look like, and can recognize items that shouldn't be there. This is why they need an unobstructed view as the laptop moves through the X-ray machine.

Purchasing one of these bags won't guarantee that you can leave your laptop in your bag for screening. If a screener finds that your bag does not present a clear and distinct image of the laptop, the laptop will have to be screened separately.

There are laptop bag styles currently on the market, such as laptop-only sleeves, that have the potential to present a clear X-ray image of the laptop if they are correctly packed. However, most current laptop bags will not present a clear X-ray image and should not be sent through the X-ray with the laptop inside. However, if your bag looks like one of these, it's probably not 'checkpoint friendly':

Checkpoint friendly laptop bag designs

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Bags meeting 'checkpoint friendly' standards should be available in mid-August. There are a small percentage of bags currently on the market that meet the new standards, include sleeve-like carrying cases without pockets or zippers. These bag types have been tested and can produce a clear, unobstructed image as long as nothing else is in the case.

So, if you're a road warrior going through airports all the time, now might be a good time to shop for a new laptop bag. Check out laptop bags on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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Last updated by Jack on 19 August, 2008 in Travel Tips.

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