Why Laptops Need to Go in Their Own Bin at the Airport

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Yes, it's annoying, but there's a very important reason you have to put your laptop in its own bin.

Going through airport security is rarely a seamless process. Getting yelled at by TSA agents to keep it moving and being forced to take off your shoes and walk on the germ covered tile is stressful enough, but add in having to pull your laptop out of your overstuffed carry-on bag can sometimes send you over the edge. If you’re running late and need to get through security fast, following these secrets to speeding through security.

Even though it seems annoying, there is a very valid reason why you need to put your laptop in its own bin when going through airport security. It’s to keep you, and everyone else in the airport, safe. “A laptop is sufficiently dense enough that it prevents the x-ray from seeing through them. Thus, they could be used to conceal other items that are not permitted,” says Brett Manders, international airline pilot and author of the book, Behind the Flight Deck Door—Insider Knowledge About Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Ask a Pilot.

A laptop, and other heavy or dense electronic devices, could be used to conceal a bomb, weapon, drugs, or even animals. “By taking the laptop out it can be viewed as a standalone item,” says Manders. “Is it a bit of overkill? Maybe, but security checks are designed to keep us safe.” Also, make sure to avoid packing these 13 things that are most likely to get flagged by the TSA.

When the laptop passes through the scanners, the TSA is able to see if it contains anything it shouldn’t. If your laptop passed through the scanners in a bag, they might not be able to pick up on a hidden threat inside or underneath the electronic device.

Electronics first became a threat to airport security when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded, killing 270 people in 1988 when a bomb hidden inside an audio cassette player detonated mid-flight. Various precautions were taken after that incident to check electronics that people were traveling with, but taking your laptop out of your bag to go through security became common practice in all U.S. airports after the attacks on 9/11 occurred.

Manders says that the rules often change depending on the country and airport. Some airports will even require you to remove your iPads and tablets from your bags even though they aren’t as dense as laptops. He also notes that this rule or precaution is unlikely to change any time soon, so get used to removing your laptops at security. There was even a time in 2017 when the United States Department of Transport was contemplating banning laptops as carry-on luggage on some flights, so be grateful that never happened. If you really never want to deal with removing your laptop and placing it in its own bin, you can get TSA Pre-Check which allows you to keep everything in your bag and keep your shoes on. Here’s how to get it.

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Senior Production Editor at Trusted Media Brands. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She works with our Production Coordinators to keep content moving and make sure that things are working well behind the scenes for all our digital sites. In her free time, she likes exploring the seacoast of Maine where she lives and works remotely full time and snuggling up on the couch with her corgi, Eggo, to watch HGTV or The Office.