New Airport Security Laptop Rules: Simpler? Maybe!

By  |  Friday, August 15, 2008 at 12:54 pm

“Good news from the TSA” sounds a tad oxymoronic, but I guess that’s what we have here: The organization charged with protecting the nation’s skies has announced that it’s loosening the rule that has made laptop-toting travelers remove their notebooks from their cases before putting them through the X-machines at airport security lines.

If you own a case of a certain style–essentially one that’s simple enough that the X-ray machine can clearly see the laptop within it–you won’t have to remove the computer. Here’s the TSA’s infographic on good and bad laptop case designs:

The TSA says it’s working with bag manufacturers to put labels on bags that are security-friendly, and also tells travelers to make sure that:

–Your laptop bag has a designated laptop-only section that can lay flat on the X-ray belt
–Your laptop bag has a designated laptop-only section that 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 lay flat on the X-ray belt

The organization describes the new procedures as being simpler but that’s up for debate, I think. Until now, everybody’s known exactly what to do with a laptop: take it out of its case. From now on, presumably, some people will try to send their computers through the X-ray in the case and learn that they’ve got the wrong kind of case only once it’s inside the X-ray. And the rules about other stuff in the case seem like they’ll lead to people frantically repacking their luggage while in line.

Me, I usually double-pack my laptop–I put it inside a sleeve, which I then slide into a traditional briefcase. I’m reasonably sure that I’ll have to remove the sleeve from the briefcase, but it sounds like even the sleeve may be a no-go: It’s got pockets on both sides, which usually have stuff such as power cords and earphones in them. I guess I’ll learn the ropes as I go.

If the time ever comes when the TSA can keep us safe without making anybody do the laptop shuffle at all, it will be a great day–I speak as someone who once managed to leave a laptop at Logan Airport in Boston, and only realized what had happened when my plane touched down in San Francisco. (I’m still amazed that I got it back.)

I tend to be a grim pessimist about security lines and rules, but you never know–the liquids-in-Baggies rule is pretty darn complicated, and it doesn’t seem to have bogged the traveling public down too much. Once people know the rules, they have an impressive ability to follow them in a reasonably efficient manner…

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  1. Angela Gunn Says:

    (reading last paragraph) Clearly things are going much better in the Bay Area than they are up here in Seattle; I’m *still* seeing folks who are dumbfounded by the liquids 3-1-1 system. OTOH, I also seem to encounter a lot of people who don’t know to take off their jackets, and a month or so ago I watched some lady argue about whether she should get to carry her purse through the detector. (And Sea-Tac lately seems to be specializing in women who try to wear those buckle-festooned gladiator-type sandals though Security. Grr.)

    I don’t hold out much hope for the new bag rules, since the sticking point with laptops still seems to be the training of the screener, but so far I’m pleasantly surprised by the experience-sorted lane system. People up here seem to be correctly assessing their own familiarity with checkpoint procedures and choosing the right lane, even though I’m sure the less frequent flyers must find the short, fast Black Diamond lanes mighty tempting. It is, at least, an efficient stage-management technique for the current airport security theater. Is that the experience of other travelers, I wonder?