The Transportation Security Administration has announced new “checkpoint friendly” computer cases that are intended to speed us through security.
How? According to TSA’s announcement, these new checkpoint friendly bags eliminate the need for removing laptops from your luggage.
Here’s part of TSA’s announcement:
“To help streamline the security process and better protect laptops, starting August 16 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will allow passengers to leave their laptop computers in bags that meet new ‘checkpoint friendly’ standards. This public-private collaboration took just five months to go from concept to reality. TSA reached out to manufacturers in March to design bags that will produce a clear and unobstructed image of the laptop when undergoing X-ray screening … Designs meeting this objective will enable TSA to allow laptops to remain in bags for screening.”
Unfortunately this has not turned out to be as friendly as intended. There’s already confusion as some of the bags referred to as checkpoint friendly are simply slim sleeves or thin cases designed to hold just the notebook—nothing more—and are carried inside your regular bag.
And while it’s true you don’t need to remove your notebook, you need to remove this sleeve with the notebook in it! I haven’t quite figured how this saves time. But I suppose it adds a little protection to the computer, keeping it apart from your liquids and shoes on the conveyer belt.
There’s a second class of laptop bags that does allow a notebook to remain inside the case. They’re designed so that a portion of the bag unzips and folds off to the side, so the computer can be viewed without anything obstructing it.
This meets the TSA requirement to allow an unblocked view of the computer, with no adapters, cords, or even a metal buckle alongside the notebook. These stay in a separate part of the bag. But you do need to unzip the bag to pass through X-ray and, whether you need to remove the notebook or not is subject to the whim of the TSA screeners, which—as we all know—varies widely.
Here are some of the products that have been announced and are or will be shipping shortly.
This style fits into your own briefcase, but must be removed when you go through security.
The QuickCheck is a padded nylon case with a Velcro flap closure and a removable shoulder strap. Designed to be carried inside your current case or suitcase. For Mac notebooks only. $45. www.myincipio.com
The Edge Sleeve is a slim protective case with a zipper side holding just the computer, allowing the computer to be sent through X-ray screening by unzipping the top cover. $60. www.brenthaven.com
Briggs and Riley
Its SpeedThru sleeve holds up to a 17-inch notebook, and will be included with some of its computer cases. Like other Briggs & Riley products, it’s very well made. It needs to be removed from the bag for screening, and has a large label identifying it as checkpoint friendly that might help with the screeners. www.briggs-riley.com
This category adds some convenience going through security, but it’s far from a breakthrough or a reason to discard your current bag. A much better solution would be to stop requiring us to remove our laptops altogether. We are among only three countries that have this requirement (along with the UK and Japan). That said, here are a few of the better-quality options:
Skooba has developed a clever and practical solution that has a number of patents pending. It’s a conventional looking notebook case in which everything is easy to access quickly in its normal carrying configuration. When preparing to enter the screening area, the user unzips a zipper around three sides of the bag, allowing it to unfold 180 degrees, hinged at the handle. That places the laptop in its own section of the bag visible through a clear window, and unobstructed by hardware, pockets and other fittings that remain in the other part of the bag. Once the bag passes through the X-ray station, just pick up the handle and the bag comes together. $149. www.SkoobaDesign.com
Targus ZipThru 15.4″ Corporate Traveler
This one also splits down the middle, isolating the laptop to one side of the bag, but the zipper is reversed from the Skooba, meaning you have to zip it up before removing it from the belt. $99. Available in October. www.Targus.com
Victorinox Swiss Army
The iconic company is offering two new Security Fast Pass cases: the Trevi, a conventional horizontal briefcase, and Big Ben, a backpack-style computer bag. Each holds a 15-inch notebook in a compartment which folds away from the rest of the case. The other part of the case has more pockets for files, magazines, accessories and a dual-sided organizational panel with dedicated pockets for business cards, pens, phones and keys. $229-$249. www.swissarmy.com
With TSA’s involvement in product design can we expect to see handbag manufacturers come up designs for carrying liquids in a zip out compartment? Or maybe the shoe industry will develop transparent shoes with gel tops and soles so that we don’t need to remove them. (These will have less than three ounces of gel, of course!)
Maybe TSA should stick to doing what it does best—screening luggage. Oh yeah … it doesn’t seem to do that very well either.
By Phil Baker. Originally published in the San Diego Daily Transcript. Check out Phil’s blog at https://blog.philipgbaker.com.
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