It's always nice to be able to report on some government regulation that actually works the way it's supposed to. In this case I'm talking about the use of government-approved laptop cases to speed travelers' way through airport security. That's something to note as we approach the upcoming holiday travel season.
A few months ago, the federal government's Transportation Security Administration approved specially designed computer laptop bags to make it easier for travelers to get through airport X-ray checkpoints. The idea was to standardize the bags so it's easy to see what's inside by minimizing any metal, zippers, closures or labels. Travelers using those bags wouldn't have to take out their computers when passing through airport scanners.
video team have been road testing a number of different designs for a few months now -- and we can happily report that with only one exception we have been able to pass through TSA security checkpoints without incident.
Four of us have been testing a number of TSA-approved bags from
at airports all around the world. We have been able to breeze through airports in San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, London and Paris.
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Here in the New York area, we had only one problem, very early on, with a TSA agent at JFK. Three of us were traveling together and one of us was asked to remove the laptop from the bag. It's security's right to do so for any reason, but we couldn't figure out why one bag was singled out. We had no such problems on our return trips, and none of us experienced any such delays while traveling through LaGuardia or Newark.
Outside of the U.S., at Paris DeGaulle Airport, where U.S. security regulations don't apply, agents were somewhat amused by the clever construction of the over-the-shoulder computer bag I was using.
We have tested four "Checkpoint Friendly" Skooba designs: three of them are "skins" and one is a full-sized, over-the-shoulder laptop bag/overnight case. The skins are padded laptop sleeves of various sizes. Their closing flaps can also be used as handles if you want to use them as totes. Prices range from $20 to $30 from Skooba's online store.
The Checkpoint is a much more substantial item. The bag looks and acts like a normal over-the-shoulder design but with a big difference -- the bag is articulated. You laptop is carried on one side of the bag, and when you go through security -- you open a zipper to reveal a see-through window with your laptop on one side while all the wires and anything else you're carrying stays safely coddled on the other side. When you're done with the X-ray machine, you close the zipper and you're on your way.
The bag is large enough to hold a laptop, lots of accessories, business papers and even a change of clothing if you use one of the other zippers to expand the bag's width. The Checkpoint retails for $139.95.
Many other manufacturers are also making TSA-approved bags of various sizes, styles and prices. Check them out before you head to the airport. As security lines get longer this time of year, an inexpensive checkpoint-friendly laptop bag might prove to be a wise investment.
Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.