To answer the question posed in the headline, I will have to say no. For most business travelers these “checkpoint-friendly” cases only help the screeners, not the travelers.
But let me back up a second. Last week the Transportation Security Administration issued a new policy decision that would allow the so-called “checkpoint-friendly” cases to be used, which could go through security without the need to open the case. That sounds like a good deal, but for frequent travelers this doesn’t offer much aid.
The desire by the TSA to provide these “checkpoint-friendly” bags is to reduce the incidents where laptops could be damaged, lost or forgotten. As someone who travels a lot I admit I’ve had mishaps with laptops, but never at the security screening. In fact I think I pay extra attention to my bags now that the laptop is removed from my bags. In the days prior to laptop removal I actually saw the pre-TSA screeners pile a carry-on suitcase on my laptop case! At least with the laptop out in the open it gets some respect.
To recap the TSA rules on cases, a checkpoint-friendly case must:
- Must have a designated laptop-only section.
- The laptop-only section must completely unfold to lay flat on the X-ray belt.
- There can be no metal snaps, zippers, or buckles inside, underneath, or on top of the laptop-only section.
- No pockets are allowed on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section.
- Nothing can be packed in the laptop-only section other than the computer itself.
These rules basically mean that you are reduced to carrying a bulky laptop sleeve. These rules make it unclear about whether you can even have the power cord or mouse in the same bag. Worse, because the rationale for removing a laptop from a bag is to give the screeners a clear X-ray view of the computer to ensure that it has not been altered, I would assume that even the mouse and power cords – as well as any other cables, headphones, etc.—need to be removed as well.
So what’s that mean? It means all those things you might put in your laptop carrying case now have to go in your other carry-on bag! All so you can save approximately one minute of time to remove and replace the laptop. I flew home to New York City last Wednesday and the TSA screeners told me if I had such a bag I wouldn’t be “bothered” with the task of removing the laptop. I timed myself, and it was about a minute to remove the laptop and my shoes (which I do at the last possible second), and then replace the laptop and put on my shoes.
To further complicate matters the TSA has announced that it won’t certify or approve bags. This won’t stop companies from claims that bags are approved, and I’ve already seen bags online for sale with special labels. But because the TSA isn’t approving any specific bags at this point, don’t trust the labels. You could still end up buying a bag, relying on said bag and then have to remove the laptop anyway.