Will New Laptop Bags Security Rules Improve Travel?

A lot of business travelers out there are probably rejoicing over recent rules changes from the Transportation Security Administration that will relax policies mandating all laptops be taken out of travel bags while going through security. For those who’ve always wondered, the TSA’s original laptop removal mandate came after screeners had a tough time seeing through the materials, cords, cases and other electronic gear that many of us now cram into carry-on bags. As someone who travels to far too many conventions where airport lines extend for what seem like miles as people pull out laptops, take off shoes and other gear, it seems a welcome way to speed up the logjam. Still, relief may be a long time coming. The new policy as written is sure to generate more confusion than relief in early going. That’s because the TSA is letting laptop bag makers such as Targus, Kensington and Pathfinder Luggage come up with their own designs to let security screeners easily X-ray new bags coming to market this fall to see what’s inside. Many of the bags will be sleek foam-and-nylon concoctions, with few extra pockets in which to stuff extraneous gear. The bag manufacturers will be able to label the new cases “checkpoint-friendly,” but because the TSA does not formally approve the designs, screeners still will have the right to stop a bag after it’s been run through X-ray and conduct a search. And rather than shell out $30 to $200 for a new bag, some travelers are likely to try to game the system by leaving their laptops in older bags and taking their chances. The upshot? In the short term, we might have to deal with even longer lines.

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