Do you have to take tablets out at security?

Do you have to take your tablets or eReaders out of your bag at security? Reader T asks…11-5-14-1

I’m going to try traveling without my laptop next week and just bring my iPad. Do I need to take it out at security?

Great question! There seems to be some confusion about what exactly needs to be taken out of your bag at airport security checkpoints. The answer to the Reader T’s question, is no—you do not need to take your iPad out. From the TSA website:

“Laptop computers, full-size video game consoles, CPAP machines, full-size DVD players, and video cameras that use video cassettes must be removed from their carrying cases and submitted separately for x-ray screening. Small and portable electronic items (smart phones, tablets, portable games, etc.) do not need to be removed from their carrying cases or carry on bags.”

Of course, sign up for TSA Pre-check and you won’t have to worry about taking your laptop out either! This video has a great rundown of the pros and cons of Pre-check. Of course, the video also mentions tablets as something you don’t have to take out if you have Pre-check, which is true, but you don’t have to take it out if you don’t have Pre-check either. Clearly there is a lot of confusion! Glad I could clear some up for Reader T.

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  1. Careful in Europe. At Frankfurt, for example, they are VERY strict and I got a very stern talking to over my old-school Kindle.

    When in doubt (or even not) always just watch what’s happening in front of you in line and you’ll know what to do (even if it isn’t officially required — if the agent is causing a fuss, best to comply in advance).

  2. Actually in my experience across the US and AsiaPac it entirely depends on the whim of the agent before the scanners…. regardless of the rules posted. The level of current “threat” and if you’ve been profiled in the line as a possible risk will also impact what you need to remove from your person. Laptops in a sleeve are often fine, but some agents demand that laptops are in a bucket by themselves without a sleeve or any other items.

    Of course you should always follow the demands (no matter how aggressive or unreasonable) of the security agents, and if you feel like you’ve been mistreated report the agent to the manager (who is almost always on the airside). Don’t expect anything to happen but if an agent receives constant complaints from travellers it’s more likely that agent will be reassigned to another role.

  3. I’ll echo Max’s sentiments. What the rules are and what individual screeners decide and yell at you on their own whim are two very different things, even within the US. Tablets in or out of bag, in or out of sleeves, in a bin alone like a laptop or next to other things. I’ve seen it go every which way at the same airport on different days.

    Security by keeping bad guys guessing? Maybe.
    Arbitrary application of rules by security theater actors? Always.

    I wish the TSA would look toward the more professional, effective, and often friendly security services at European and Australian airports for guidance on how to approach their work. It’s not that it never happens, but a good experience with the TSA should be our expectation, not a surprise and relief.

  4. Just wanted to echo those who pointed out that it’s not standard. I usually pull my Kindle out every time just in case, and hate when TSA agents question me. “Why on earth would you take your tablet out?? You don’t need to do that!” Yes, I know it’s not legally required, but some of your fellow agents don’t seem to know that and have made me re-run my tray when I didn’t take it out, just last week. Yes, at this very airport. So it’s much faster for me just to take it out every time since I never know which way the agents are going to go!

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