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New TSA rules force iPad, Kindle, Nintendo Switch into X-ray bins

Long story short: Lines will be longer

Airports Scramble To Address Long Security Lines
Get ready to use more bins.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Air travel in the U.S. is about to get a bit more annoying: Devices like tablets, e-readers and gaming handhelds will soon join laptops in the class of electronics that need to be placed in a bin for X-ray screening, the Transportation Security Administration announced today.

Extra security procedures including enhanced screening of electronic devices will go into effect at “all U.S. airports in the weeks and months ahead,” the TSA said in a news release. The revised guidelines — the implementation of which comes after a pilot program at 10 airports around the country — are meant to address “an increased threat to aviation security” and “raise the baseline for aviation security worldwide.”

Under the new TSA guidelines, fliers will be forced to remove “all electronics larger than a cell phone” from their carry-on luggage and place those devices in a bin with nothing above or below. That means that travelers may have to use multiple bins just for electronics, if they can’t lay everything flat in one bin.

This is the way the TSA has long handled larger electronics, like laptops and gaming consoles. But extending the policy to smaller devices such as an iPad, Kindle, Nintendo Switch or 3DS — which are much more common travel companions — will likely cause additional delays and longer lines at security checkpoints. Think of parents traveling with young children: That family of four might be carrying a laptop, a couple of e-readers, a tablet and a Switch between them — all of which have to go in bins.

The TSA’s new domestic guidelines apply only to passengers in standard screening lanes. Customers who have paid for a TSA Precheck membership — which costs $85 for a five-year term — and are in a TSA Precheck lane are exempt from the policy change.

The introduction of this revised screening procedure follows the retraction last week of the so-called laptop ban, the controversial policy put in place by the Trump administration in March. Under that travel restriction, passengers flying out of 10 airports in majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa could not bring large electronic devices — including laptops — in their carry-on luggage.