[Updated December 2, 2008]
You will soon be able to keep your laptop in your case when you go through airport security checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration announced last week that they will begin allowing laptops to be screened through their X-ray machine while they are still in bags. The catch? The bags have to be “checkpoint friendly” and meet specific guidelines. The new rules take effect August 16, and you should be able to start purchasing these bags this month.
According to the TSA (link), the bags need to have a sleeve or flap that folds out, and encases the laptop separately.
Illustrated samples of the types of checkpoint friendly laptop bags that the TSA has approved for use.
Some of the requirements for checkpoint-friendly laptop bags are:
- 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.
Although the TSA is not endorsing specific manufacturers or models, a few luggage and bag makers have are announcing their products now:
- Incipio’s QuickCheck line of simple sleeve bags – designed for Macbook laptops of all current models.
Incipio’s QuickCheck laptop sleeve.
- The Targus Zip-Thru Corporate Traveler – looks like an archetypal leather laptop case, but zips fully open to split the bag down the middle to lay flat, with the laptop on one side. Retail priced at $99.00.
The Targus Zip-Thru looks like a standard laptop briefcase, but you can zip it flat (right) and run the bag through airport X-ray with the laptop in its separate compartment.
- Skooba Designs Checkthrough – known for some of their neoprene (wetsuit) bags, Skooba has not yet announced a price for their product. Availability is listed as end of summer, and they are not taking pre-orders. You can, however, sign up to be notified of any announcements.
Skooba Designs Checkthrough bag, with the photo on the right showing the laptop portion with clear window.
- Tom Bihn’s Checkpoint Flyer – Seattle-based bag manufacturer Tom Bihn now offers its own checkpoint-friendly, soft-sided briefcase. If you’re a fan of Tom Bihn or if you’re looking for a truly rugged, made-in-America bag, the Checkpoint Flyer is a great new addition to the roster of checkpoint friendly laptop bags. By the way, Tom Bihn is more than user-friendly; the product description is also reader-friendly. Visit the product page for an animated image of how to unfold the bag at the security terminal.
By the way, the Checkpoint Flyer is much more than just a laptop bag. You can easily use this as your main carry-on if you can pack lightly; it has plenty of room for a weekend’s worth of clothes as well as all your laptop-related stuff.
The Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer briefcase.
What’s it all mean?
For one, it means that there are some people at the TSA that actually come up with some good ideas. That’s good to know, because a lot of people have negative impressions of the TSA based on their experience at the airport security checkpoints. Honestly, it’s about time we started moving towards some common sense. Putting your laptop in a checkthrough-friendly bag means less risk for banging up your laptop, a little more security from people just grabbing your laptop as it comes out of the X-ray chute, and less scrambling at the checkpoint when you have to get everything loaded up onto the queue.
I think the initial crop of checkpoint-friendly bags will get picked up by business travelers who do a lot of air travel and who must carry their laptops on their trips. I also anticipate that a whole slew of bag manufacturers will come up with some sort of product that they can say is checkpoint-friendly.
Just remember that the TSA is not taking on the added work of actually certifying any of these bags. All they did was provide requirements that a product must meet in order to have it house a laptop through their X-ray machines.
Unless you already travel with a separate laptop bag, my suggestion is that you don’t replace your regular carry-on just yet. Wait until you can purchase a standalone sleeve-type case, with D-rings that let you carry on your shoulder. It should be compact enough to be snug for your particular laptop, and it should allow you to easily pull it out from your carry-on. It will provide a lot more versatility, as you will still be able to use the carry-on of your choice (to which you tuck the sleeve in).