Laptop Bags: Industry Process and Guidelines

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On March 3, 2008, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) posted a Request for Information (RFI) on Federal Business Opportunities calling for information on innovative laptop bag designs that would present a clear image equal to or better than the image of the laptop in the bin when X-rayed. The RFI asked that offerors submit information and design concepts of their bags within 30 days and prototypes within 90 days.

The overall operational objective of the RFI was to determine the potential for making the screening process for laptops more efficient for both passengers and Transportation Security Officers (TSOs). By allowing passengers to keep their laptops in their laptop bags, TSA can improve the overall passenger security experience, while reducing passenger stress and anxiety at the checkpoint.

As a result of the RFI, TSA received an overwhelming response, with more than 40 interested bag manufacturers submitting prototypes. TSA reviewed the laptop bag prototypes internally and conducted a rigorous lab assessment of the prototypes at the Transportation Security Laboratory in Atlantic City, N.J., in order to provide industry with a list (below) of "what not to do" with their designs (e.g. no metal snaps, zippers, pockets, etc.). TSA did not use the prototypes to provide feedback to manufacturers on their individual designs.

In addition to providing manufacturers with a "what not to do" list, TSA established three pilot sites, Austin, Texas (AUS), Washington Dulles area (IAD) and Ontario, Calif. (ONT), where bag manufacturers could make appointments to test their bags and receive direct feedback from TSOs. The "what not to do" list together with testing at the pilot sites has enabled industry to further refine their bag designs.

Although TSA is no longer accepting white papers or bag prototypes, interested bag manufacturers are encouraged to develop bags that meet the criteria below and participate in testing by setting up an appointment at one of the three test sites. This will enable manufacturers to develop bag designs that present a clear and unobstructed X-ray image of the laptop when screened.

TSA will implement a policy change across all airports in Fall 2008, allowing laptops to remain in "checkpoint friendly" bags. This change has not yet taken effect. We will update this Web site as we move towards that date.