Monday, November 8, 2010

MacBook Airs (Along with many other computers and gadgets) are Still Clear for Take Off

Small ElectronicsMacBook Airs are back in the news with the recent release of the next generation models. People are asking if they need to come out of bags prior to X-ray screening since they’re smaller. As much as people might like me to spark off a Mac vs. PC war here, I’m happy to report that the same rules apply to all electronics. You’ll find no favoritism here.

Back in April I wrote a post titled Traveling with E-readers, Netbooks, and Other Small Gadgets (Including the iPad). In that post I explained that electronic items smaller than the standard sized laptop (including e-readers, netbooks, tablets, personal DVD players, etc) do not need to be removed from your bag or their cases. So with those rules in mind, the 11” model of the MacBook Air is fine to leave in your bag, and the 13” model must be removed prior to X-ray screening. Unless of course you own one of the "Checkpoint friendly" laptop bags... Keep in mind that even though you’ve done everything right, our officers are trained to look for anomalies and the need may arise to take a closer look at your gadget. 

I hope this clears things up. And just so you know we shipped out posters this past summer to all of our 450+ airports around the country explaining the same rules to our workforce. Removing laptops or anything resembling a laptop has become part of our security DNA, so we thought it best to send out a refresher to our workforce. Enjoy your gadgets! I know I do…

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bob, if only this were true. The last half-dozen times I've flown with an eeePC netbook, TSA folk have asked that it be removed 100% of the time. I've even asked going in, was assured I didn't need to - and then harangued because I was following the policy stated here. *shrug* Do I need to print out your blog entry in order to help train them?

claystorm said...

Hey Bob,

Could you please send another poster or two to ABQ? They still seem to think my iPad needs to be removed from my bag when I pass through security. I have had no issues at the many other airports I have been at this past year (DFW, BWI, DCA, ICT, PHX, DEN, ELP) only ABQ, which sadly happens to be my home airport.

Anonymous said...

Great my iPad is checkpoint friendly, when will my surgically implanted metal be?

Anonymous said...

This REALLY needs to actually be COMMUNICATED across the country. I'd say less than 50% of the airports actually know and understand the 11" Air is acceptable to put through the xray inside the bag. Very agitating when I do my part and stay current with the policies, yet the TSA personnel do not.

Anonymous said...

The size of a threat is what determines if it is a threat? Okay. How about a real world example. I am a free-lance software/hardware developer.

Due to IRS rules and regs about what is a "business" and "personal" computer, and just for grins the companies that I work for wanting their work being done on their machines, I travel with THREE computers. One is a 15" DTR monstrosity. Then there is the 11.6" netbook. And the 10.2" tablet. I cannot (for other reasons) pack them as checked luggage.

Okay. So, in a bag that has four power supplies, various cables, an RF mouse, an external optical drive, an external hard-drive, four ink pens, a calculator, notepad, a powered USB Hub, a "stick" printer, a "stick" scanner, several flash drives, a stylus, my keys, an MP3 player, and various other detritus, you are telling me that your fancy hardware that cannot detect the difference between 'stable liquid explosives' and 'water' can declutter the above and differentiate between a 10.2", a 11.6", and a 15" notebook computer if they are packed in the same "TSA friendly" laptop bag? May I ask what you have been enjoying and where I can I get some?

I am sorry. Until you get people who can tell the difference between a passport card and a credit card (seen it. Chicago domestics.), or know how to tell the difference between a University issued student ID and a state-issued "enhanced DL" (Hello, San Francisco International!), I don't care what the TSA says about their scanners. I will be pulling all of my computers out of my laptop bag, and slowing up the line as I load those trays, because if I don't there will be a TSO freaking out about a 10.2" laptop in my bag going through the scanner (hello, again, Chicago Domestics).

Security theater should be fiction, not fact.

Anonymous said...

Bob,

Once again, TSA needs to educate their staff

From another board a person representing themselves as a TSO recently said:

It is up to the person that is operating the x-ray machine. Given my experience I would take it out. Otherwise the bag is going to be re-run

Jim Huggins said...

So ... Bob, according to your own words:

Electronic items smaller than the standard sized laptop (including e-readers, netbooks, tablets, personal DVD players, etc) do not need to be removed from your bag or their cases. [...] The need may arise to take a closer look at your gadget.

So, we don't need to take out our small gadgets ... except when we do.

Yeah, that clears things up.

Randy said...

BB,

I don't understand why these devices should be exempt, since I (and you, I'm sure) imagine that one day they may be part of a terror threat.

I'm not sure if I feel safe,
Randy

Anonymous said...

I've been strongly scolded for leaving my netbook in a small backpack twice (the only two times I dared not to remove it). Get your act together.

Anonymous said...

I can confirm that eeePC netbooks are required to be removed 100% of the time by the staff at the checkpoint, no matter what is written here.

I can also confirm the incredible belief that "ice is a liquid" (TSOs words, not mine).

Anonymous said...

Bob - Can you please send a few more posters to DFW? Even after contacting the DFW TSA customer service manager about this, I am always told my small netbook and iPad must be removed. Yesterday the TSA "barker" was barking "REMOVE ALL LAPTOPS, IPADS, VIDEO CAMERAS, GAME BOXES".

What does it take to train these people? In my line of work if people don't "get it" after a few re-trainings they are fired.

Oh and by the way, my valid NEXUS card was also refused!

Anonymous said...

Take your netbook out, fliers. Seriously, i don't support much of the TSA's security policies, but trying to decide the difference between a 10" netbook and a 12.7" laptop when you're looking for serious threats is...not helping the TSA do their job, no matter what you think of them. I dislike the security theatre aspect of screening, especially at the particularly incompetent airports like Boston, O'Hare, or the horror of Portland, but i'll take another three seconds and throw my netbook in the bin no matter what i think. It's not worth the bother for anyone, and rescreening a bag is a pain in the butt for everyone.

Plus, a helpful TSO at Seattle (perhaps the *best* TSA people...professional, speedy, friendly, and polite) told me that there are Checkpoint Friendly certified sleeves for my netbook.

Anonymous said...

Define by TSA standards the dimensions of a standard size laptop.

As usual what you on the Blog Team think is happening is completely opposite of what is really going on in the nations airports.

How can there be such a large disconnect?

Perhaps you need to get out more often.

Ronnie said...

People, people, people...I know you get frustrated over the littlest stuff. We do too, only we have to go thru it HUNDREDS of times a day, not just once in a while. Yes, I am talkng about taking computers out of the bags. And I can honestly tell you, it is never 'just the computer' in your bags. We have to look through books/papers, power cords, mouse, memory sticks, external hard drives, extra battery packs, (and a long list as previously mentioned above.) Even when there is only a 'small netbook' there are also all the associated parts. Please make it easier on yourselves if you know you have a lot of clutter, just take out the computer (DVD player, large electronic)and move on. It will save you time if you do not have to wait for your bag to be pulled out, separated and re-run.

Thank you.
Ronnie
TSO DEN

Anonymous said...

In response to "Anonymous" mentioning Portland as a nightmare:

I agree. I have not determined which airport is the "Omega" airport where the TSA dumps their training failures, but Portland and San Diego are number one and two on the list of probable locations. Can we PLEASE get some remedial training for both?

aardwolf said...

I was yelled at last week for sending my iPad through the scanner while still in the otherwise empty laptop case.

Anonymous said...

Reddit wants a discussion. http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/e412i/iama_request_tsa_agent_familiar_with_the_new/

Can you talk to them Blogger Bob??

WOXY forever

Anonymous said...

"... Seattle (perhaps the *best* TSA people...professional, speedy, friendly, and polite)"

Yeah, except back in April when, thanks to them, I spent 36 hours in a King County jail after attempting to educate a screener about the netbook rule. It's a long story, but a supervisor there abused his authority.

Anonymous said...

Bob-

Where can I get one of those posters? Maybe if I take it with me when I fly, the screeners will stop getting verbally abusive when I tell them that I thought my 10" tablet didn't have to be removed from my bag.

jb said...

"Please make it easier on yourselves if you know you have a lot of clutter, just take out the computer"

Well, Ronnie (TSO DEN), I'd suggest that you tell Blogger Bob to stop waffling such vapious stuff about"anything less than a standard-sized laptop" not being required to be removed from the carry-on.

What's a "standard-sized laptop" for goodness sake?! 13"? 12.5"? In that case my 12" Powerbook is OK along with my 11.6" MacBook Air?

Make the rule simple.

Anything with a screen that's not a phone needs to be removed for x-raying.

Easy as.

Anonymous said...

I thought this blog was suppose to be about dialog.

Bob, you posted what should be happening. Posters have countered with what is happening.

In the interest of dialog, what does the TSA think about the difference between what is suppose to happen and what is happening?

Anonymous said...

This is a classic example of the difference between policy and practice, since every single time I leave my iPad in my bag, they make me take it out, usually with an admonition about how I need to follow instructions.

trish Wimmer said...

Dear Bob:
Please continue to train your staff. I am nearly always asked to take my ipad out of the bag. So I just do it out of habit now. While traveling this week I was told it wasn't necessary and to put it back in. Seriously it was already out? So everyone behind me was doing the eye rolling thing. On top of that I got one of the new pat downs even though I didn't set off the alarm. Nice way to get treated every time I have to go to work. And a few weeks ago in Little Rock my bag was resent through the scanner several times because I had a pack of post it notes? Again, seriously? I am used to traveling without my lip gloss and what now because I don't like the hassle. Can I at least keep my post it notes? Could you just go ahead and have someone with one of those wipe things test my things for explosives rather than testing me?

Anonymous said...

"when you're looking for serious threats is"

-------------

Hahaha. Serious threats. You had me for a bit there. Why would a serious threat target the airlines when we spent billions on airline security and we have unsecured malls, elementary schools, and subways? I guess WW3 is going to be a tank battle against Germany, using this logic?

lil pup said...

Not sure if this is enough to make me want to brave taking my netbook as it seems that no matter what the operatives on when I pass through the checkpoints are applying their own interpretation of reality.

Anonymous said...

this is somewhat not new to almost anyone. They are still doing in other areas. I hope this can be contacted to everyone with you, TSA guys. There is no danger with a little notebook or an ipad. People do not have to scan this items because they are just small.

Diane said...

What you stated, Blogger Bob, is a LIE. I flew out of Houston Hobby headed to MN for my 30th class reunion. Signs were plastered all over Hobby about how netbooks were allowed to stay in your bag. All well and good. No problem with security at Hobby. HOWEVER, on my return trip from Minneapolis/St Paul, there were NO signs regarding netbooks, so I figured the rules were the same at each airport, and left my netbook (all of 10.5") in my backpack. It got scanned three times, then they pulled out my netbook, YELLED at me about not taking it out, then swabbed it, all the time with a very disgusted look on their face. They were extremely rude, and acted like I was a criminal.

Anonymous said...

What about moms who are traveling with kid(s) for Christmas and have a brand new (unwrapped) IPAD with me? My fear is TSA is going to make me unload the box in front of kid who's getting it for Christmas when we travel to Disney for the holiday... any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Yesterday in Denver International at the bridge checkpoint to the A gates two people in a row had the "you can't leave your laptop in the bag, I don't care if it's an 11" macbook air" discussion. In talking with the TSA supervisor it appears that any communication on this topic isn't making it the the staff at the checkpoints.

Come on Bob! Get the word out to the customer facing staff.

Anonymous said...

Bob,

On November 15th, TSO "Walden" at Seattle-Tacoma Int'l Airport chastised me for not taking my 10-inch netbook out of my fabric briefcase.

Based on my and a lot of other people's experience, it is obvious that one or more of the following problems exist:

1. TSA does not properly publish guidance/distribute guidance to its employees or the public (why isn't the guidance about netbooks, iPads, etc., on the "Information for Traveler's page on TSA's website?).

2. TSA's training program is ineffective.

3. A substantial portion of TSA's employees can't follow the agency's guidance and training.

So, Bob, which one(s) is it?

jb said...

Can someone please point me to the relevant section of the TSA website that documents this rule?

The current "How to Get Through the Line Faster" section requires anything larger than an iPod to be presented separately

"Small electronics, such as iPods, can remain in your carry-on."

Anonymous said...

"When will my surgically implanted metal be?"

Going through the AIT

"I can confirm that eeePC netbooks are required to be removed 100% of the time by the staff at the checkpoint, no matter what is written here."

You can leave your netbook inside your bag so as long as the device isn't obstructed by anything else that may be in the bag. For example, nothing placed on top or beneath. If, in fact something is obstructing its view, it would have to be removed and reran through the x-ray machine.

"I can also confirm the incredible belief that "ice is a liquid" (TSOs words, not mine)."

As you know, water in a frozen state is just that and should be treated as that.

"Oh and by the way, my valid NEXUS card was also refused!"

You Nexus card is a valid. If you are told otherwise, challenge it. Request a supervisor.

"Based on my and a lot of other people's experience, it is obvious that one or more of the following problems exist:

1. TSA does not properly publish guidance/distribute guidance to its employees or the public (why isn't the guidance about netbooks, iPads, etc., on the "Information for Traveler's page on TSA's website?).

I can't say this about all airports but a power struggle does exist between the local TSA Management and Airport Operations in regards to limiting the number of signage displayed at the checkpoint. Again, it does vary. However, its a known fact passengers don't pay too much attention to signage that is displayed.

2. TSA's training program is ineffective.

I would contribute it to a breakdown in communication.

3. A substantial portion of TSA's employees can't follow the agency's guidance and training."

Agreed.

Beth said...

Flying out of Logan Airport, US Airways terminal B, I asked if I could leave my 11 inch MacBook Air in the bag. The screeners were very nice, but simply unaware of the rule.

One of the male TSA workers was genuinely interested when I explained to him that it was allowed to keep laptops 11in or smaller in the bag. I showed him my printout of this posting. However when he carried the printout over to his supervisor to get clarification, the supervisor emphatically denied that this was true and said he was too busy to read the paper. By this time it was a moot point because they had already done a 'bag check' on my bag and removed the laptop, which in itself I didn't mind because the lady doing the screening could not see well enough into the bag and would have had to take out the laptop regardless of the size to get a clear view of the contents.

However it is a shame that these rules are not disseminated to the workers at all.

Anonymous said...

How many additional cancers are projected to occur in the flying population from the radiation dose received from to the body scanners?

Anonymous said...

the rude and sardonic tsa employees at george bush airport in houston,tx are the worst part of both my trips requiring re-entry to the couontry there.I am an American and recieved much more courteous and professional treatment in the country I visited.I also felt safer there.My only fear on my trip was dealing with tsa.

Anonymous said...

Add me as another that was yelled at for leaving an 11" air in my bag at GRR:

TSA: "Whose bag is this"
Me: "Mine"
TSA: "Is there a laptop in it"
Me: "Yes, but its a bag approved air"
TSA: "Is it a laptop?"
Me: "Yes"
TSA : "Laptops need to come out of your bag -- I'll take it out for you"

please train your staff

asmith said...

Dear Bob,

In mid-November, when MacBook Air 11's were still very new, I wasn't too surprised to be asked (in JAX) to remove it from my bag despite the new rule and your blog. My husband and I took ours out for travel security in December. This month, neither he nor I have removed it, traveling about 6 cities domestically and 4 internationally, traveling separately so at different times and often places. Today in JAX I therefore kept it in my briefcase, packing several >100 year old family photos adjacent to it so they wouldn't be bent. The JAX TSA understanding of the policy is correct that all laptops >11x14 should be removed, but when I told them this was 11" diagonally, and that the TSA site itself okays it, (and I had carefully made sure no electronic gadgets or power cords were aligned with it in the bag), they still said they must remove it themselves. I was so surprised, and worried about the fragile photos, that they did allow me to suggest how to pull it out so the photos wouldn't be hurt. I was even more surprised when - instead of then re-running the bag and the MacBook separately, they only re-x-rayed the computer!

Please continue to spread the word to each airport, or to change the recommendations on your blog so people are routinely prepared to pull out MacBook 11's just like all laptops.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Good site, appreciate.

Paul (mac air book) said...

Wow I did not know that I could leave my 11 inch Mac air book in my luggage through customs. Thats great news, thank you for your post!

You have made my traveling much easier now.

jb said...

This is rubbish.

TSA ALWAYS wants my 11" MacBook Air removed from my hand luggage

jb said...

And you STILL haven't updated the TSA website to reflect your statements

'However, please be advised that you will be required to remove these items (laptops, full-size video game consoles, DVD players and video cameras that use cassettes)from your carry-on bag and submit them separately for x-ray screening. Small electronics, such as iPods, can remain in your carry-on"

No mention of netbooks, no mention of MacBook Airs, NOTHING

Anonymous said...

You might want to update your PDX checkpoint crew on this. I was told "all laptops need to be removed;" when I replied that I thought netbooks don't need to come out the agent repeated the same thing. This was at the C-gate security, 4 pm, June 14, 2011

Anonymous said...

Can we please get a copy of the regulation or whatever is necessary to show the TSA agents so that we can get through security faster and also teach them the appropriate new rules.

This would help us and you at the same time. Because if the TSA agents are telling travelers that they must take the ipad or mac air 11" out of the bag, then we can just hand them the rule that sates it is not required and they can learn the rules since they will be taught over and over again by travelers that are aware of the correct rules.

Thanks.

Jared Ellis said...

You can't expect security to know the exact dimensions of a laptop. It's just not practical. Rather than making a big deal of it, just remove it to save yourself an argument and the people on line behind you, some time.

Mike said...

Are TSA rules US-only or international? When in the US, I have no probs with my 11.6'' Air (no need to take it out), however once you get into any international airport (and I mean even the major hubs like LHR) it becomes "All laptops out. No exceptions"... iPads seem to be ok everywhere though.

grace under fire on dvd said...

MacBook Airs, sounds nice.

Unknown said...

It's been nearly two years since this release and I can tell you that agents still have no clue. I was told that I am "always" required to remove any device with a clam shell when trying to get through ORD last Thursday. We I politely referenced this blog I was told somewhat abrubpty that I could spend the afternoon in security if I wanted to argue with her.

youmustbefromaway.com said...

I wrote this a year ago in a follow-up comment to one I made almost TWO years ago

And you STILL haven't updated the TSA website to reflect your statements

'However, please be advised that you will be required to remove these items (laptops, full-size video game consoles, DVD players and video cameras that use cassettes)from your carry-on bag and submit them separately for x-ray screening. Small electronics, such as iPods, can remain in your carry-on"

No mention of netbooks, no mention of MacBook Airs, no mention of iPads, NOTHING


This is beyond pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Passed through JetBlue JFK Terminal 5 today (1/14/13). TSA agent and suppervisor completely deny that the small Mac Air can stay in the bag. They completely refused the idea that it could be true, and suggested if I was 'testing airport security' by doing so I coupld be arrested.

Jason Mudd said...

I agree 100%!

technology said...

I agree. I have not determined which airport is the "Omega" airport where the TSA dumps their training failures, but Portland and San Diego are number one and two on the list of probable locations. Can we PLEASE get some remedial training for both?

Alvina said...

I have to travel with 3 devices and I take them all out each time. Not worth the hassle really.