Tag: Transportation Security Administration

What to look for with “checkpoint-friendly” laptop luggage

Article – From the horse’s mouth

TSA: “Checkpoint Friendly” Laptop Bag Procedures

TSA Website

My Comments


One major goal with airport security is to be sure that the item being taken on board an aircraft is what it really is and not carrying a bomb or other payload dangerous to aircraft or personal safety. Most of us see this function being performed at the security checkpoints using the X-ray scanners.

As far as laptop users are concerned, this has often required the security staff to use these X-ray machines to determine whether it is a computer or not. Along with this, there has been the issue of high-throughput checkpoint lanes, with the use of trays to consolidate passengers’ small-size belongings as they pass through these machines. Some people also reckon that the trays are there to permit a high quality X-ray image out of the machines, especially if there is item-recognition software in place.

As I have encountered from personal experience with the Dell Inspiron 15r during a previous Sydney trip and from a friend’s experience with their laptop, some of the aforementioned trays can’t allow a 15” or 17” laptop to lie flat. In some cases, the laptop could drop down on these trays too easily and this could cause the computer’s owner to worry about its hard disk.

TSA-approved “checkpoint-friendly” computer luggage

The Transportation Security Administration in the US have established a benchmark for computer luggage that allows the laptop to be scanned “in-situ”. This is meant to avoid the need to take the computer out of the luggage and have it scanned separately or have the luggage manually examined.

What makes a laptop bag or case “checkpoint friendly”

The bags or cases are designed in a fold-out style, with one style that folds out like an open book; and the other style being a three-fold design that folds over twice. Another style is the common laptop sleeve that you slide your laptop or iPad into.

The cases don’t have any metal fastenings on the side of the designated laptop pouch or inside that pouch; and there aren’t any pockets on the side of or inside that pouch or sleeve. Typically this will allow for a zipper along the edge of a laptop pouch or sleeve or have the pouch or sleeve secured shut with a plastic zip / press-stud (snap fastener) or a Velcro strip.

The material will be thick enough to protect the computer but thin enough for X-rays to pass through when it passes through the X-ray scanner. As well, the decorations on the case will appear to be thin and made out of materials other than metal for this same purpose.

The bags will typically have the laptop accessories, documents and other items held in other pockets.

But what should you look for

When you choose any laptop luggage, check the case for good quality stitching on the bags. This includes any straps and handles. The laptop pouch must have well-sewn Velcro strips or a good-quality fastening along the pouch. Other fastenings on the rest of the bag should also be good quality and it is worth looking at the warranty that the manufacturer offers on these items. Sometimes a good clue to pay attention to is the manufacturer’s warranty on the bag or its fastenings.

This is important so that you don’t risk damaging your computer equipment due to the case coming apart because of poor-quality stitching or fasteners.

Existing or preferred luggage

If you do use existing or preferred hand luggage like that company briefcase or that backpack, you can get away with using a laptop sleeve to protect your computer even more. Then you just put the laptop in its sleeve directly on the conveyor belt at the airport security checkpoints.

On the other hand you could just place the laptop in to its own tray as the last item to go through the X-ray scanner. Then, after you have passed the checkpoint, you put it in your existing hand luggage.

Once you choose the right kind of well-built luggage, this can lead you to many years of reduced-hassle air travel.