Checkpoint-friendly laptop bags--are they an essential accessory for travelers or a gimmick?
A little of both, perhaps. Checkpoint-friendly bags are designed to allow travelers to pass through airport security checkpoints without having to remove their laptops from their bags. The bags are designed in such a way that keeps the laptop in its own compartment or sleeve, with nothing (such as buckles or pockets) to prevent the security X-ray scanner from getting a clear image of the laptop. The Transportation Security Administration announced it would allow the use of such bags at airports beginning Aug. 16.
Pushing the envelope a bit, I passed through a security checkpoint at San Francisco International on Aug. 12 with Aerovation's Checkpoint-Friendly Laptop Bag ($130). The two-person company claims their bag is the first of its kind on the market, and I've seen no evidence to the contrary.
The bag worked as promised. I placed it flat on the X-ray scanner conveyor belt, as shown in the company's online video (see below). I was not questioned, wanded, frisked, folded, spindled, or mutilated by any security personnel as a result. No eyebrows were raised. In fact, the TSA officials were far more interested in two travelers in line before me, with bulging, matching Abercrombie & Fitch bags in which a young man was pictured exposing a hairy armpit. "You'll have to check those bags," a TSA official told the travelers. Whether this was because the travelers had exceeded their carry-on limit, or their bags had exceeded the boundaries of taste and decency, was not clear.
At any rate, the Aerovation bag spared me from having to remove my MacBook Air and place it in one of those gray plastic buckets. Given that I already had to remove my jacket, shoes, and belt buckle while simultaneously holding onto my driver's license and boarding pass, I welcomed the relief. So if you're a frequent traveler looking to minimize the steps required to pass through airport security, this bag is worth the cost. If you travel only occasionally and have a laptop bag you love, a checkpoint-friendly laptop bag might not be worth your money.