TSA announces that 11″ MacBook Air computers can remain in their bag at the checkpoint

In a spot of good news for proud owners of the new 11″ MacBook Air, the Transportation Security Administration has announced that passengers may leave their machine in its bag when passing through the checkpoint.

A similar exception was previously made for the Apple iPad – which brings me to the question – why did they never announce these exceptions for the hundreds of similar machines passengers have used in the past? Before I started traveling with a checkpoint friendly bag, TSA officers always demanded that I remove my computer from its bag – even when the machine was just an 8 or 10 inch netbook.

The 13″ MacBook Air is sadly deemed too large for the exception – but that only raises even more questions – given that both machines are essentially the same on the inside, why can officers scan an 11″ machine when it is in a bag, but require special access to anything larger? The whole thing proves that the chairman of British Airways was right when he complained about inconsistent screening by the TSA.

And to clarify – the news comes from CNN who received it from a TSA spokesman – the TSA has not issued any kind of formal statement. Have you passed through security with a new 11″ MacBook Air? Did you notice any leeway in the screening procedure?

Update: According to the TSA blog, the rules for smaller computers were indeed relaxed earlier this year. In their words: Electronic items smaller than the standard sized laptop should not need to be removed from your bag or their cases.

In other words, there is no special exception for the 11″ MacBook Air – it simply falls under existing rules for smaller computers.

[Image credit: Getty Images]

Time posts their 25 “must have” high-tech travel gadgets

Time has published a list of 25 “must have” travel gadgets. The list contains some of the usual suspects, like the Apple 3G iPhone, the Amazon Kindle and a Canon digital camera.

Then there are several “gadgets” you wouldn’t immediately think of, like this UV water sanitizing pen or a wine “skin”, which is nothing more than a piece of bubble wrap for carrying wine bottles in your luggage (I find using a sock and a plastic bag to be a cheaper solution).

The list covers everything from an ultra thin notebook (the Apple Macbook Air) to the Kensington battery pack for).iPod and iPhone, (reviewed here on Gadling last week.

All in all, it isn’t a bad list, but it might be a little too rich for some travelers. Some of the items missing from the list (in my opinion), are the Asus Eee PC or a similar $400 ultra portable laptop and a real handheld GPS unit, like one of the many Garmin handheld mapping devices which allow you to navigate while walking through an unknown city, or off the beaten path.

Of course, different travelers will have different needs, so let me ask you; what are you missing from this list? Do you own a “must have” product you’ll never leave home without? Leave a comment, and in the coming weeks I’ll put together a list of the Gadling top 25 high-tech travel gadgets.

Is the MacBook Air a traveler’s dream come true?

Here’s the short answer: nope. On the upside, its form is absolutely revolutionary. At 3/4th of an inch at its thickest and just 0.16 inches at its thinnest, the MacBook Air is skinnier than anything manufactured by its competitors (such as Sony’s Vaio line).

But here’s the rub. You might as well just get an iPhone. An iPhone will let you do essentially the same tasks: watch videos, check email, browse pictures, and listen to your music.

And there’s one critical feature the iPhone has over the new MacBook for travelers. With the iPhone’s AT&T data line, you can get unlimited Internet from anywhere in the world (but outside of the states prepare to pay for costly roaming fees). That’s something you can’t do with the MacBook. As mobile as its form is, the MacBook is still tethered to those WiFi networks–which are soooo 2003, wouldn’t you say?

Having said that, Apple, I’d love to promote the Air if you’d just send me one. Please?