To help streamline the security process and better protect laptops, TSA recently encouraged manufacturers to design bags that will produce a clear and unobstructed image of the laptop when undergoing X-ray screening. A design that meets this objective will enable TSA to allow laptops to remain in bags for screening.
TSA screens laptops to see if the electronics have been tampered with. Transportation Security Officers know what the inside of a computer should look like, and they can recognize irregularities. This is why they need an unobstructed view as the item moves through the X-ray machine.
Purchasing one of these bags will not guarantee that you can leave your laptop in your bag for screening. If a Transportation Security Officer finds that the bag does not present a clear and distinct image of the laptop separate from the rest of the bag, the laptop must 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.
What Does This Mean For Passengers?
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 you 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 lie 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 will not approve or endorse any bag design or manufacturer. TSA will only allow laptops to stay in bags through screening if they provide a clear and unobstructed X-ray image of the laptop.
Given TSA's use of random screening protocols, TSA reserves the right to re-screen any bag or laptop regardless of the design of the bag.