With the recent addition of in-flight Wi-Fi service on airplanes, traveling with a laptop is even more attractive for busy executives, students and folks who just want to keep up with friends while traveling. Carrying a laptop through the security check-point and using it on board requires an understanding of TSA regulations. With planning, air travel with a laptop can be easy and productive.


Never pack a laptop inside checked baggage. Baggage handlers are trained to toss bags from a luggage caonrt to a conveyor belt, an activity not designed for the delicate workings of a computer. Pack your laptop in a padded, carry-on bag.

The easiest way to pack a laptop is in a "checkpoint friendly" bag. According to the TSA, a laptop may be left in a bag through screening if the bag provides a "clear and unobstructed image of the laptop when undergoing X-ray screening." These bags have a laptop-only side that has no metal pieces or pockets underneath or on top. Nothing but the laptop and cords can be packed in this type of bag.

Security Checkpoint Procedures

Remove laptops from a regular bag for screening. Turn off the computer and place it in a screening bin with no other objects. Remain with the bin until it is time to send it through the metal detector. When using several bins, place your laptop in the last one to ensure you will be through the detector when it arrives on the other side. Tip: Put your slip-on shoes in the first bin, coat and toiletries in the next, then suitcase and bags with your laptop bin last.


Do not put your laptop bag in an overhead compartment. Items inside may fall out when the door is opened. Laptops are best stowed under the seat in front of you, making it more convenient to retrieve if you plan to use it in flight, especially for middle and window seats. Be aware that bulkhead seats have no under-seat storage, so request a non-bulkhead seat if you want to use your laptop. Power outlets are available on most airlines.

In Flight

Follow the airline's instructions for logging on when you are cleared to use electronics. The captain will not do this until the plane has reached 10,000 feet. Gogo and other providers do not work at lower altitudes. Close proximity to your neighbor necessitates several adjustments. Use a laptop privacy filter to shield your work or tilt your screen away from the person beside you. Use a headset if you watch a movie or television program on your computer. Airlines strongly discourage you from viewing websites that might be offensive or inappropriate to other travelers. Never transmit personal financial data over the Internet while on an airplane.


Never leave your laptop unattended; do not place it on the floor in the restroom or at the ticket counter. The safest policy is to keep the laptop's strap over your shoulder at all times while in the airport. Laptop thefts are common at airports, so keep an eye on your computer at all times.