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TSA Approved Laptop Bags

The TSA recently started allowing airline passengers to pass through security without removing their laptops from their bags, provided the bags are of the “TSA approved” variety. This is the biggest news for the frequent flyer since the ban on liquids. I haven’t tested my luck in the security line just yet, but I’m thinking about giving the new rules a whorl in the next few days.

The thing is you can’t have anything in the bag besides the laptop. Now, with the airlines being a little less lenient with the carry on policy, it seems like kind of a waste to use a whole bag just for you laptop and nothing else. I think I’d just as soon pull by trusty Compaq out of my Lands End briefcase (that I’m STILL in love with) and be able to utilize all that extra space for the rest of my gear. But if you really, really hate taking two seconds to take your laptop out of your bag, then this is your lucky day.

In the entrepreneural spirit we love, heaps of manufactures out there have been hard at work to design bags that will provide “a clear and unobstructed image of the laptop when undergoing X-ray screening.” If you use one of these approved bags, you should get through your screening without a hitch. Though the TSA can still search whoever they want.

With an approved bag, the TSA can screen the laptops to see if the electronics have been tampered with. In the press release, the TSA warns customers that purchasing one of these bags does not guarantee you won’t have to remove your laptop. It depends on whether or not the agent can clearly see your laptop. You can try to put it through, but if they TSA agents can’t see clearly, you’ll have to remove the laptop and have it screened separately. I’m so used to removing my laptop, I think I’ll just stick with removing it rather than standing around and facing a second screening.

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.

Here’s what you need to do if you intend to keep your laptop in your bag:

  • Be sure your laptop bag has a designated laptop-only section that you can lay flat on the X-ray belt
  • Ensure there are no metal snaps, zippers or buckles inside, underneath or on-top of the laptop-only section
  • Check to see that there are no pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section
  • Don’t store anything in the laptop compartment other than the laptop
  • Completely unfold your bag so that there is nothing above or below the laptop-only section, allowing the bag to lie flat on the X-ray belt.