Cintiq through airport screening?
August 4, 2014 12:28 AM   Subscribe

Can I take a Cintiq digitiser tablet through airport screening without getting it confiscated? The Cintiq requires mains power to work. (It doesn't have a battery, & was never designed to work with one). I think it's understandable that I wouldn't want to check this in as hold baggage. It's easy to mistake the thing for a tablet that "suspiciously does nothing" when not plugged in to the wall. UK-US trip.

I've tried plugging in the Cintiq's usb connection into my laptop on its own (to see if just the pen digitiser would work, i.e. the cintiq's screen would stay blank, but I would theoretically be able to show the tablet moves the mouse pointer around), but the Cintiq can't power up at all.
posted by aesop to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It might take a while to get through security, but You should be okay as long as you are ready to explain what it is and have a plug with you in case you are asked to demonstrate. Can you carry a copy of the user manual or other documentation with you? You could also try calling the airline and getting their take on it before you show up at the airport.
posted by rpfields at 1:02 AM on August 4, 2014

Thanks so far.

Also: I'm quite happy to plug it in and demonstrate it if they'll let me.

It's surprisingly difficult to get a definitive description of what the rules actually are, rather than a news report on them.
posted by aesop at 1:07 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you ought to be fine. I would treat it like a laptop, and do whatever you're requested to do in that situation (e.g. taking it out of its case or bag to be run through the machine separately).

If you're friendly and understanding, you ought to get through just fine with something like this in my experience.
posted by Old Man McKay at 3:58 AM on August 4, 2014

I'm a pessimist, so I am going to say, good luck.

Thing is, these regulations always start out someplace no one cares about (some place that affects few people). Then they roll them out widespread or some enterprising agent takes it upon himself to enforce because he's had someone read him a memo! You can't get these guys to actually enforce the actual rules that govern them even if you print them out and read to them really slowly.

I would only attempt this is you have a lot of time to get to your destination, and don't need the data on the tablet.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:48 AM on August 4, 2014

Can you ship it to your destination? Fed EX overnight perhaps?
posted by Gungho at 5:53 AM on August 4, 2014

Which model do you have? I ask because the 13 inch looks a lot like a tablet - tablets do not even need to be taken out of your bag anymore.
posted by phil at 6:07 AM on August 4, 2014

A note for commenters: The TSA recently implemented new standards for international flights coming into the US:
This week’s travel tip is for passengers traveling out of overseas airports. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson recently directed TSA to implement enhanced security measures at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States.

Electronic devices are already screened daily, but now, security officers might ask that you power up your devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft, so it’s important to have them charged prior to going through security.
and I assume that's aesop's concern.
posted by jaguar at 6:28 AM on August 4, 2014

Jaguar, yes That's pretty much what I am concerned about. Nowhere can I find the advisory first hand.

Phil: It's the 13hd model for what it's worth.

Not terribly keen on posting it overseas. I'm in the UK and I'm not sure that'll be any better than packing it in hold.

As far as not having to scan/screen tablets, I dunno, seems like a risk to assume that will have trickled down to My Agent. I am planning on showing and telling as much as possible.

Cjorgensen: what you say rings true, but I'd at least like to try to follow their own guidelines (if such exist) rather than what I have only read in the papers. Also, it's a drawing tablet so it doesn't store any data, it's essentially just a drawing surface.

Thanks all so far.
posted by aesop at 6:51 AM on August 4, 2014

I realize you may not be traveling through Heathrow, but here's their rules:
Can I carry electrical items – such as laptops, MP3 players or portable DVD players – in my hand baggage?

Yes, but make sure your electronic devices are charged before you travel. If your device doesn't switch on when requested, you won't be allowed to bring it on to the aircraft. Large electrical items must be removed from cabin baggage and in the case of laptops, from laptop cases prior to screening.

What is a 'large electrical item'?

As a general guide, large electrical items – which must be removed from other baggage prior to screening – are those that are approximately A5 size or larger, or where any dimension is greater than 20cm in length.

Small e-readers and tablets such as Kindles, Ipad mini's and similar sized devices are not considered large electrical devices and may remain in cabin baggage and protective sleeves.
It may be worth calling your airline and/or the airport, but I think you'd be relying solely on luck getting it through.
posted by jaguar at 7:04 AM on August 4, 2014

I don't think they care at all about things that don't have a battery in them. I've traveled with weird looking test equipment for work and the security people never even gave it a second look. You'll be fine.
posted by chrchr at 7:19 AM on August 4, 2014

Seconding chrchr. I've taken some pretty bizarre-looking stuff through security, like naked computer power supplies, lcd components, multimeters, etc, and they were surprisingly laid back about it. Obviously this specific clause may be trouble, but I think they see a lot of weird shit and can't be in the business of destroying any item they don't recognize.

I also think you could be fine packing it in a checked bag. With a nice solid box and lots of internal padding, wrapped in clothes and put inside a hard sided suit-case I think it would be basically indestructible.
posted by heresiarch at 7:37 AM on August 4, 2014

There will be an outlet SOMEWHERE in the area in a pinch, won't there? I've ended up hanging around in airports sitting on the floor plugging laptops into outlets that were intended for floor-cleaning equipment to conserve battery before.
posted by Sequence at 7:42 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just as a data point, I went through Heathrow security just about 10 days ago and was told repeatedly about the new cellphone policy, but was never asked to turn anything on.

They do want all electronic devices out of the bags and put in a separate plastic bin for screening. So if they x-ray a device and it looks all batteries-and-wires, then they will probably ask you to turn it on. I don't believe the guts of a digitizer tablet look like much of anything. I say bring the manual and you should be okay.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:57 AM on August 4, 2014

Sequence: there is no battery to charge.

Pace chrchr, it seems too risky to assume it'll be fine. I just know that the one time there's someone on who doesn't understand what a drawing tablet is, that'll be the time I roll in. Hold baggage is starting to look sensible.

Sorry for taking my time making up my mind here. It's one of those areas where it doesn't seem to me that there is any reliable black-and-white dependable rule to rely on. It seems pretty much a case of "be what's expected or prepare for problems". (Eerily like most technology services in my experience, but that's by-the-by.) I guess I'm just hoping that someone will roll by with a cast iron guarantee it'll be fine (with appropriate citations and authority). Which doesn't seem likely.
posted by aesop at 7:58 AM on August 4, 2014

The rule is too new for definitive advice. It's targeting battery-powered electronics, which your tablet is not. But will TSA realize that? I think either you'll have to be the guinea pig for the rest of us or check it. As a data point, I was traveling home from Europe last week, and the guy in front of me at the TSA pre-clearance bag screening was asked to plug in and power on a device (it looked like a CPAP machine). They had outlets right there in the screening area, and he seemed to sail through just fine after that. But, again, it looked like a medical device.

Depending on how much power your drawing tablet needs, could you see if one of those portable battery packs would work to power it on for a short period?
posted by bluefly at 9:43 AM on August 4, 2014

Could you print out a detailed description of it from the Cintiq website to show them if necessary?
posted by umbú at 10:21 AM on August 4, 2014

I think in the end I am going to have to just check it.

I did think of having some sort of external battery pack, but the Cintiq uses some sort of custom 30-pin-lookin' power connector (it's not the same as the Apple one) which terminates in a wall plug, not a male USB. I suppose there might be external batteries out there that allow one to plug in a wall plug, but I doubt they are either portable or cheap, if they even exist. (And kind of a one-shot deal here, really. I don't really want one. USB one, yes. Wall-plug one , not really.)

(to clarify, the Cintiq connects to laptop via monitor cable AND usb; the monitor connection is for for Cintiq screen and the USB for the Cintiq digitiser which senses the drawing styus. But it also requires a third "30 pin to mains" cable to do anything at all, even when connected to a laptop)

I'd have been happy to go ahead and plug it into the mains for them at screening, but it depends on them being happy for me to do that, and I just can't assume they would be. Too risky for me. I'm going to find a strong box to check it inside my luggage and do that risk instead, which at least I feel I understand.

I think the ideas to take manuals/printouts etc along are fine ideas in any kind of a situation where common sense might be expected to be employed, but the agent who'd have a problem in the first place (with a batteryless peripheral that requires external power) is the selfsame agent who would not be swayed by a manual, I think. Not to denigrate them, but I imagine they are usually negotiating a grey area themselves quite often, and one person's judgement may not be as flexible as another's.

Urgh procedures do get in the way of common sense sometimes, don't they?

Though I've really made up my mind now I'm going to leave this open for a bit in case someone has more to add for people researching the topic later, but for me, I just can't afford to take a risk based on the unknown factors involved, hence checking it to take my chance with the throwers and Newtonian physics, which one can at least plan for.

Thanks for being patient with my dithering everyone, you've helped me weigh it out.
posted by aesop at 12:16 PM on August 4, 2014

Why not just bring a laptop, and plug it into the laptop+the wall if they ask?

That said, i've had the same experience as JoeyZydeco above. I flew twice recently with my ipad, and they didn't even look at it, or ask me to do anything with it.
posted by emptythought at 5:15 PM on August 4, 2014

All I have is an anecdote, but it seems relevant: flying LHR-MSP last Wednesday, I was stopped on the jet bridge (no outlets in evidence) and asked to turn on my dumbphone, my iphone, and my laptop. I am sure that they would have taken all or any of them if they hadn't powered on. It was a spot check -- not everyone boarding had to do this.

I agree with those upthread who say that you'd be relying a little bit on luck to get through.
posted by obliquicity at 9:47 PM on August 4, 2014

My SO has flown with a Cintiq several times in his carry-on and it wasn't a problem for our domestic flights, including a flight not long after this policy was announced. I realize that this is for an international flight, and I do think you're wise to be more concerned. If it were me, I would bring everything I'd need to demonstrate it being in working order, including a laptop and its cables and power supply, with me on the carry-on, just in case. That said, the specific problem they're trying to combat is people replacing the batteries in items that take them with explosives. If they see no batteries in the X-ray, I would assume they would have no problem with it. As with everything, it's probably a good idea to check with your airline and/or travel agent and see what they say.

If you do end up checking your Cintiq, make sure that it is packed in a container that is difficult to crush and use enough packaging to keep it from moving inside that container. Also keep in mind that you will have to trust baggage screeners to not mistreat it or steal it just as much if you carry it with you (if not more).
posted by Aleyn at 6:50 PM on August 5, 2014

Thanks everyone. One of the things I am worried about is the possibility of even being given the opportunity to plug it in and demonstrate it. I would be fine with that. But one just doesn't know. Let's hope it becomes clearer one of these days...
posted by aesop at 5:25 PM on August 13, 2014

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