What is a Checkpoint Friendly Laptop Bag? – TSA Guide

Do you find it hassle that every time at the airport security checkpoint, you have to remove out your laptop from the backpack and place it in a bin?

You probably want to pass through the security screening process faster. 

So that you can have time to chill out among the retail shops, bars, and coffee shop while you waited for your plane.

One of the best ways to save your time queuing in security lines is to use TSA checkpoint friendly laptop bag. By using this laptop bag, technically you can leave your laptop inside the bag without removing it out of the bag.

It will surely change your travel experience. By the way, this leads to the obvious question: What is a checkpoint friendly laptop bag though?

Note: If you’re traveling with a laptop overseas, you may like to read this article.

For several years, it’s been the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rule to ask the traveler to take out laptop out of the bags and place it in a bin by itself.

Then sometime in August 2008, the TSA released industry process and guidelines that help the bag manufacturers to innovate and develop these “checkpoint-friendly” laptop bag designs.

Laptop bag program has been an idea to get bag manufacturers to give TSA some of their most innovative ideas for getting a laptop through screening while the laptop remains inside the bag.

That will make the screening process for laptops smooth and efficient; thus, they can improve the overall travelers’ security experience.

TSA requested the bag manufacturers to send the white papers of their best designs that they think would separate a laptop from the rest of the contents of the bag.

This will present the TSA officers the same image as a laptop as if they were in the bin during the screening process.

Since this new policy took effect, many bag manufacturers had sent their prototype to TSA to be reviewed and tested intensively in the labs.

What is a Checkpoint Friendly Laptop Bag Guideline?

TSA checkpoint friendly laptop bag (or TSA Approved Laptop bag) is designated laptop bag that allows travelers to breeze through airport security checkpoints without removing out their laptop computers from their laptop cases.

According to the TSA guidelines, a well designed TSA checkpoint-friendly laptop bag must meet five main criteria as follow:

  • The laptop bag must have a designated laptop section only that you can lay flat on the X-ray belt
  • No metal snaps, zippers or buckles can be located inside, underneath, or on top of the laptop-only section.
  • Nothing can be packed in the laptop-only section other than the laptop itself.
  • It cannot have pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section.
  • The laptop-only section must unfold completely to lie flat on the X-ray belt, and there is must nothing above or below the laptop-only section.

The image below shows what type of bags that are considered “checkpoint friendly” and those that are “less friendly.”

TSA Checkpoint Friendly Bag
The TSA's examples of checkpoint-friendly and unfriendly laptop bags

What to look for in a Checkpoint Friendly Laptop Bag

If you’re looking to buy this type of laptop bag, you need to look out for zippers, straps and especially pockets because if you’re buying a bag and it has a pocket, you’re probably going to use it to put other things.

TSA wants the laptop in a separate compartment from the bag. So somehow that you will put your charges, cell phones and all other things in your bag but you want that laptop separate so that the screener can see the only laptop as if it were just in a bin by itself.

Here are some general points that you should look for in buying your checkpoint friendly laptop bag:

  • There should be no metal zippers, snaps, or buttons directly next to the laptop. When you’re looking down at your laptop from the top, there must have none of these materials above or below the laptop-only section.
  • There are no thick dividers or padding (usually foam) that surrounded the compartment because they can obscure the X-rayed image.
  • Just like the first point above, there are no pockets over or under the laptop that will interfere with the screened image.

Please bear in mind though, each vendor interprets those guidelines differently and will claim their bags are TSA checkpoint friendly.

You cannot find any official TSA approved laptop bag in the market. It’s up to your judgment when buying this type of bag.

However, you can find a lot of TSA approved laptop bags that are compliant with the TSA guideline in the market.

How to Use a TSA approved laptop bag at the Screener

The process of doing it is simple. Just put your laptop in the security checkpoint friendly designated compartment by itself and lay it flat on the X-ray belt.

You can unzip the bag and put it through the x-ray machine at the security checkpoint without having to remove your laptop from the bag.

Just be sure not to place anything but your laptop in the compartment so the x-ray machine can get the clean image of your laptop.

What Should You Keep in Mind at the Security Checkpoint?

You should keep in mind that ultimately it’ll come down to the discretion of the TSA officers working on your day of travel.

TSA officers will do the random check protocols where they have the rights to re-screen any bag or laptop regardless of the design of the bag.

Even though you use this designated laptop bag, the TSA officers reserve the right to ask you to remove out your laptop out of your bag for some reasons.

For example, if the X-ray view of your bag isn’t clear enough, or if an agent sees something in the X-ray that cannot be identified or raises suspicions. 

These so-called checkpoint-friendly bags have been created using the TSA’s guidelines, and there is no guarantee you can speed through the screening checkpoint without taking out your laptop.

The TSA did make a disclaimer that they will not approve or endorse any laptop bag design by manufacturers.

Conclusion

The reality is that the goal of this TSA program is to increase the speed and efficiency of airport security checkpoints by allowing passengers to keep their laptop computers in their bags during X-ray screening.

It is not mandatory for you to have this kind of bag to place your laptop, but it sure not only saves your time and hassle, but also protect your laptop at the airport security checkpoint if you have it.
 

If you don’t want to spend money on buying the TSA approved laptop bag, you can buy a cheap laptop sleeve or cover that can be easily detached or removed from the main bag.

I hope this article has answered your main question of what is a checkpoint-friendly laptop bag.

You may want to read our related article, “Best Laptop Bag for Air Travel“.

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