All “clear” on bypassing airport security again?

An opt-in program that charges airline passengers to bypass airport security lines is being resuscitated more than two years after its abrupt shutdown. The CLEAR program re-launched in Orlando last week, and is preparing to start up in Denver.

After submitting fingerprints and iris scans, members are issued a CLEARcard with these biometric data. Kiosks at participating airports then allow them to confirm their identity and “speed through security.”

Verified Identity Pass shut down the previous program suddenly in June 2009, leaving approximately 165,000 members without refunds. The new owners—Alclear, LLC—purchased CLEAR’s assets in bankruptcy reorganization, and are offering reinstatement to those who were left stranded. Under the current terms, membership will be renewed upon first use or when CLEAR begins operating in the member’s home market, whichever occurs first.

Members should also note that annual memberships will automatically begin renewing again, at the cost of $179 per years. However, CLEAR says it will provide 30 days notice prior to processing charges.
A similar program, dubbed iQueue, currently operates in Indianapolis and “expects” to launch in additional cities this year. Annual enrollment is $119, and former CLEAR members are credited up to 12 months.

CLEAR was founded by Steven Brill in 2005 and at its peak it was available at 23 airports. However, in 2008 Consumer Reports Money Adviser noted the card—which operated under the Transportation Security Administration’s Registered Traveler program—was “a shortcut with serious trade-offs.”

Both Consumers Union and the American Civil Liberties Union voiced concerns over user privacy. In addition, C.U. questioned both the security benefits of the CLEAR program, as well as its necessity, given that an analysis of airport wait times “found many that did not seem onerous.”

Unfortunately, the TSA’s airport Wait Time Calculator is currently under construction. But prior to enrolling in CLEAR, you may want to determine just how lengthy the queues are at the airports you most frequent.

— William J. McGee