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Checkpoint-friendly computer bags set for debut

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  • Checkpoint-friendly computer bags will be eligible for TSA screening Saturday
  • Travelers must use bags with a designated laptop-only section
  • There must be no metal snaps, zippers or buckles obstructing the view
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From Jeanne Meserve
CNN Homeland Security Correspondent
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Somewhere, it's engraved in stone: "Thou shalt remove thy laptop from thy bag."

Beginning Saturday, travelers will be able to leave laptops in bags that meet TSA screening requirements.

Beginning Saturday, travelers will be able to leave laptops in bags that meet TSA screening requirements.

But savvy travelers can begin ignoring that commandment of air travel beginning Saturday, when the Transportation Security Administration begins recognizing the latest innovation in aviation security -- checkpoint-friendly computer bags.

The TSA said it has worked with bag manufacturers to address one of the biggest frustrations of air travelers, the need to remove computers from carry-on bags and place them in bins. It asked manufacturers to design bags that give X-ray machines a clear, unobstructed view of the laptops.

Some 60 manufacturers responded to the TSA's solicitation, with 40 of them submitting prototypes for testing. About a dozen manufacturers are currently advertising checkpoint-friendly bags.

Many of the bags are deceptively simple. One common design resembles a clam shell. The case unzips into two, with one side holding the computer and the other holding computer peripherals, keys and other personal items. All of the bags are devoid of metal zippers, clips and buckles on the side of the bag that holds the computer. Learn about the TSA's laptop bag requirements »

Travelers at Reagan National Airport near Washington had different opinions on the hassles of carrying computers but were uniformly supportive of having checkpoint-friendly bags.

"Sign me up," said traveler Seth Robertson, who was carrying a computer bag and a large, stuffed pony, a present for a friend in Nicaragua.

Getting the computer through the checkpoint was more difficult than the stuffed animal, he said.

"The laptop, I have to take out of the bag and put it separately," Robertson said, whereas the pony, he could "just stuff right through."

Screeners didn't even look the gift horse in the mouth.

The TSA says about one-third of all air travelers carry laptops. And the current screening procedures are cumbersome for travelers who sometimes leave laptops at the checkpoints in their haste. Video Watch a screening demonstration with a new laptop bag »

In fact, about 4,800 laptops are lost at airport checkpoints every day, according to a study conducted this year by the Ponemon Institute for the Dell computer company. It is not known how may are quickly recovered, an institute official said.

But a checkpoint-friendly carrying case could potentially alleviate problems caused when folks grab the wrong computer by mistake, or grab the bag and forget the computer, he said.

TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe said the bags may even improve speed at checkpoints. "Less time (is) spent putting things in the bin and putting things back in at the other end, so it may help the process along," she said.

For a bag to meet TSA requirements, it must meet the following five standards:

  • It must have a designated laptop-only section.
  • The laptop-only section must completely unfold to lay flat on the X-ray conveyor belt.
  • There must be no metal snaps, zippers or buckles inside, underneath or on top of the laptop-only section.
  • There must be no pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section.
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  • There must be nothing packed in the laptop-only section other than the computer itself.
  • The TSA says it is not approving or endorsing any bag design, but it says manufacturers have stepped up to the plate, providing a number of bags that qualify.

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