TSA makes laptop travel easier - or not?

Just when you think the federal government has come up with a plan to make the security process at airports more efficient, it turns out that the fine line in security is now blurrier than ever and I suspect the wait times at security checkpoints will actually grow longer.Starting tomorrow, the Transportation Safety Administration will allow laptop computers to stay in bags that are "checkpoint-friendly" - those that basically offer an unobstructed view from the x-ray machine.

Just when you think the federal government has come up with a plan to make the security process at airports more efficient, it turns out that the fine line in security is now blurrier than ever and I suspect the wait times at security checkpoints will actually grow longer.

Starting tomorrow, the Transportation Safety Administration will allow laptop computers to stay in bags that are "checkpoint-friendly" - those that basically offer an unobstructed view from the x-ray machine. That means no more pulling out the laptop and placing it in its gray basket for sliding through the x-ray machine. A time-saver, right?

Maybe, but how will you know if your bag is checkpoint-friendly? Well, you won't. And the TSA can change its mind at any point during the security check process, as well. Oh, and even though they're talking about working with manufacturers to create a "checkpoint-friendly" label for new bags hitting the market, there's no way of stopping other manufacturers from slapping a similar label on theirs.

Roughly, here are the guidelines, via the TSA' press release.

  • 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

The TSA has even offered some visuals, based on some testing. Note the fine-print here on the approved bag styles. These are designs that "have the potential to provide clear X-ray images."

TSA Computer Bags

What does this really mean? Roughly, if you have one of these bags, they may ask you to take it out anyway. If you have one labeled as being "checkpoint-friendly," they still may ask you to take it out. Oh, and you may be forced to step back in line or step aside after walking through - because, of course, they'll want you to take that computer out for extra screening.

There went the time savings, huh? I think I'll just keep taking my laptop out of my bag, regardless of whether it's checkpoint-friendly or not. It seems like that will still be the fastest way to get through the process.

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