Can I Bring My Laptop on a Plane? Yes, but you should know this


Wherever you go, your laptop follows. You have an upcoming flight scheduled and you’re wondering if you can take your trusty laptop with you so you can keep current on work and maybe watch some movies in the hotel at night. Are laptops allowed on planes?

According to the TSA, you can bring a laptop on a plane in a checked bag or carry-on bag. That said, before the laptop is allowed on the plane, you have to take it out, put it in a bin, and allow the TSA agent to take an X-ray.

This is good news for you, as you’d prefer not to be separated from your laptop while flying so you can ensure the expensive device arrives at your destination safe and sound. Keep reading for the ins and outs of traveling on planes with a laptop, as we have plenty more great information ahead!

Laptop-on-a-plane

Can You Bring a Laptop on a Plane?

According to the Transportation Security Administration or TSA website, you can indeed bring your laptop on a plane, at least when flying internationally across the United States.

The TSA allows laptops in both checked bags and carry-on bags. Let’s explain the difference between the two types of bags now.

Checked Bag

A checked bag is a piece of luggage that the airline collects, stores on the plane, and flies with for the duration of the plane ride. When you land, your checked bag will be returned to you on a rotating carousel.

You cannot access the contents of your checked bag once it’s taken from you at the airline. Although checked bags are usually maintained during a flight to avoid customer complaints, that doesn’t mean accidents can’t happen.

It’s not necessarily made clear to an airline what the contents of a checked bag are, so your laptop could be banged up on the flight. By the time you go to turn it on when arriving at your destination, it might be damaged or not work.

Checked bags also sometimes go missing. Again, airlines try to minimize this as much as possible to maintain their customer base, but it’s a possibility.  

In some cases, a lost bag gets recovered, but not always.

Carry-On Bag

Your other option for transporting a laptop on a plane is in a carry-on bag, which is also referred to as hand luggage.

Unlike a checked bag, which you lose possession of for the entirety of the flight, you can keep a carry-on bag at your side the whole time.

You’d roll the carry-on bag onto the plane, stash it above your head or keep it at your feet, and access its contents as you wish.

When the flight touches down, you could retrieve your carry-on bag (if you used an overhead storage compartment) and then be on your merry way.

The biggest benefit of using a carry-on bag is that you don’t have to entrust your precious laptop to the airline. If your laptop is very expensive and you don’t want anything to happen to it, then stowing it in a carry-on bag is wise.

Your laptop will avoid damage and possible breakage (unless through user error, of course) since it will be with you the entire flight. You also don’t have to worry about your carry-on bag possibly getting lost unless you happen to misplace it.

Do You Have to Take Your Laptop Out of Its Bag Before Your Flight?

You’ve arrived at the airport with your laptop in a checked bag or carry-on bag. Can you bring the bag right onto the flight or will a TSA agent have to stop and check it first?

In most cases, you will have to get your bag checked, but not all.

According to the TSA, if you’re a TSA PreCheck member, then you can “experience a smoother screening process – no need to remove shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, or light jackets.”

To join TSA PreCheck, you’d submit an application online and then set up an appointment at one of nearly 380 enrollment centers. The enrollment must be done in person but takes 10 minutes. You will undergo a background check and be fingerprinted.

Once you’re accepted into the PreCheck program, you’re given a Known Traveler Number so you can skip the long TSA lines at the airport.

If your checked bag or carry-on bag is deemed checkpoint-friendly, then you also might not have to open it. The bag must have a section for a laptop that you only use for the computer. That section must unfold completely flat.

The bag must also lack buckles, zippers, metal snaps, or pockets near the laptop section.

In all other instances, you will have to take your laptop out of the carry-on bag or checked bag. You’ll be required to place the laptop in a bin. The TSA agent will then send the laptop through an X-ray machine to confirm that it is indeed a computer.

Once your laptop comes off the X-ray machine, the TSA agent might ask you to turn the laptop on. This isn’t because the TSA agent necessarily thinks you’re suspicious. They just want to ensure that your laptop is just that.

You’d be surprised how people try to smuggle illicit items onto flights, so the TSA just wants to be safe than sorry. 

Can You Use Your Laptop During a Flight?

You have one more question pertaining to traveling with your laptop. Can you open it up in the middle of your flight and use it?

If you brought your laptop in a carry-on bag, then yes, you can use the laptop during your flight.

Your airline might offer purchasable Wi-Fi so you can connect to the Internet and get some work done or enjoy your own in-flight entertainment such as Netflix or HBO Max.

That said, since your connection might not be the strongest thing in the world, it’s better to download your TV shows or movies from Netflix or your streaming service of choice before your flight than it is to stream them live on the plane.

This way, you can watch your favorite entertainment even without an Internet connection.

The same downloading service is available on audio streaming platforms such as Spotify, so be sure to use it if you’re usually not that into the in-flight movies offered on airlines!

Of course, do be aware that you cannot power on your laptop when the plane is taking off or when it’s landing. You’ll have to turn the computer off completely, so be sure to save your work and come back to it when you get to your hotel.

Conclusion

The great thing about traveling with a laptop is that it’s airplane-friendly.

You’ll have to decide if you want to bring your computer in a checked bag or a carry-on bag. If your bag is checkpoint-friendly, then you might not even have to take the laptop out when going through the TSA check.

That’s also the case if you’re a part of the TSA’s PreCheck program, but this requires a prior application before your flight.

Be agreeable to taking out your laptop and possibly even turning it on if you’re asked to. This way, you can get on your flight sooner and boot up your laptop!

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John Cunningham

John is a writer, classic car and whiskey lover, men's shopping enthusiast and self appointed DIY expert. His greatest passion is repairing in the workshop, making old classics look and run like new again!

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