Keeping MacBooks Snug at Security

Apple's laptops have had some interesting encounters at airport security checkpoints. The wafer-thin design of the MacBook Air befuddled one security officer earlier this year in the U.S., who asked to give some "special attention" to the "fine piece of machinery," according to Bob, who blogs for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). After inspection, the laptop was returned to the owner.

Users don't have to remove their MacBooks from their bags anymore, thanks to new "checkpoint-friendly" laptop bags. It's a hassle to remove laptops and place them in bins, so these bags allow X-ray machines to screen laptops from inside bags. The bags are designed using guidelines provided by the TSA, which wants a clear view of the laptop through the bag.

The TSA does not officially certify bags, but it has set some basic rules that can be viewed on its Web site.

The TSA expects a majority of these bags to be available in mid-August, and voila, some products are here. Checkpoint-friendly bags and sleeves for Apple's MacBooks are available from Incipio, Tom Bihn and other vendors.

A MacBook Air checkpoint-friendly bag

The tiny MacBook Air has unique dimensions, so it won't be compatible with bags for average-sized laptops. Incipio's QuickCheck carrying case is designed specially for the dimensions of the MacBook Air. Made of nylon with a protective lining, and with two pouches to store accessories, it looks more like a sleeve than like a full-blown protective case. The US$44.99 laptop comes with a shoulder strap and is available in black and "cool silver" colors. It is available on the company's Web site.

Checkpoint Flyer Briefcase

Tom Bihn's Checkpoint Flyer Briefcase is a sturdy laptop bag designed for travel. It has more than 10 pockets, including a "quick-access" pocket where a boarding pass and maps can be stored. At $220, it may be a tad expensive, but it is made of protective material and has a compartment designed to save laptops from impact. The bag can be ordered for various MacBook models and screen sizes at Tom Bihn's Web site. It supports the MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook and MacBook Pros with 15-inch and 17-inch screens.

Sleeves for PowerBooks and iBooks

If you need just a sleeve and not a sturdy laptop case, look at SleeveCase from Waterfield's Web site. Sleeves provide a great cushion for the laptop to be stored in other bags, but Waterfield claims they can also act as a standalone bag. The sleeve is made of neoprene and is wrapped in a solid nylon shell. MacBooks do not need to be removed from the sleeve when being run through an X-ray machine during security check.

Depending on screen size and laptop model, the sleeves are priced between $38 and $42. There are sleeves for most MacBook models and even for old-school PowerBooks and iBooks. They are available on Waterfield's Web site.

A pilot's tale of aero bags

Calling themselves a bunch of "engineers and pilots, not fashion designers," Aerovation gave its Checkpoint Friendly Laptop Bag a no-frills design. The bag, padded with foam and nylon, has a zipper that splits the bag into two different parts. It also offers a number of pockets to store travel documents and computer accessories. The bag costs $129.95 and is currently out of stock on Aerovation's Web site, but the company hopes to resume shipping it again by the end of this month.

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