Tips for Flying with Your Laptop - dummies

Tips for Flying with Your Laptop

By Dan Gookin

Taking a laptop onboard a commercial airliner today is about as normal as bringing onboard a sack lunch or a crying infant. That’s good news, unlike the old days, when having a laptop was cause for concern by airport security. Today, you most likely won’t be the only person in your row with a laptop on the tray table during the flight.

Is your laptop case one carry-on bag or half a carry-on bag?

Despite what they may say, the laptop bag is considered a personal item. You’re allowed a piece of luggage and a personal item. So the laptop case or bag is one of those two things. If the flight it full, however, don’t be surprised if the airline actually enforces its own rules.

  • Do not check your laptop as luggage! You don’t want to subject the laptop to the kind of torture that most checked bags endure. You don’t want your laptop to be stored in the subzero cargo hold, and you don’t want to risk your laptop being stolen. Do not check your laptop!

  • When the plane is full and you’ve tried to sneak on too much carry-on luggage, remove the laptop and check the bag luggage. Keep the laptop with you.

Laptop inspection

Security rules seem to change all the time. Always follow directions given at a security checkpoint. It doesn’t matter whether the other airport did things one way or the security agents were more kind during your outbound trip.

Generally speaking, you must remove the laptop from its bag. The laptop must be placed into a bin, along with other electronics, change, keys, and so on.

If you’ve been pre-checked, you can keep the laptop in its bag. This rule may not hold at all airports.

If you have an approved laptop case, you can keep the laptop in that case. These cases aren’t recommended, because keeping it in the case at a security checkpoint is really the case’s only benefit.

After you’ve passed security, put the laptop back in its bag, reassemble yourself, and be on your way.

  • Watch your laptop! The X-ray machine is a popular spot for thieves!

  • The X-ray machine doesn’t harm the laptop.

  • If you’re pulled aside for additional security, you may be asked to turn on the laptop. That’s a good reason to have its batteries fully charged. If they’re not, be sure to pack the power cord. Most X-ray stations have a wall socket you can use.

All aboard!

After taking your seat, store the laptop bag under the seat in front of you. That storage is easier to get to. Use the overhead bins only as a last resort; otherwise, you run the risk of having latecomers jamming their steamer trunks and body bags into the overhead bins and crushing your laptop.

Keep the laptop in its bag! Wait until you hear the announcement that you can turn on your electronic devices before you whip out your laptop.

  • Obviously, you should avoid bulkhead seats, which lack underseat storage.

  • When the airline offers an extended-legroom class, such as the exit row, take it! More room for legs means more room on the tray table for your laptop.

  • Window seats are best for computing aloft. That way, you can control the window blind, to shield your laptop’s screen from the sun.

  • 3M makes a special laptop display cover, the 3M Laptop Privacy Filter. It prevents peering eyes from seeing the information on your laptop screen, which is a problem on airplanes. The filter can be found at office supply and computer stores all over the place.

Airplane mode

Like other wireless mobile devices, laptops feature an Airplane mode. The key is to disable wireless radios, such as Wi-Fi, mobile data, and Bluetooth.

For most laptops, controlling Airplane mode is a task handled by a physical on-off switch somewhere on the device. For example, on some laptops, it’s a special key combination, such as Fn+F5. Press that key, or throw the switch, to place the laptop in Airplane mode.

A better option, and potentially the only option for some laptops, is to use Windows to enable Airplane mode. Follow these steps to enter Airplane mode in Windows 10:

  1. Press Win+A to summon the Action Center.

  2. Click or tap the Airplane Mode tile.

    When Airplane mode is active, an Airplane icon appears in the notification area on the taskbar.

You can click the Airplane icon to view two buttons. Click the Airplane Mode button to deactivate Airplane mode. Click the Wi-Fi button to enable Wi-Fi while Airplane mode is active.