As the controversy continues over airport security scanners and pat-downs, the Transportation Security Administration has given the green light to a "trusted traveler" lane at another one of the nation's busiest airports.
The lane at Denver International Airport is operated by New York-based Alclear LLC, a company that pre-screens fliers, giving them quicker access to security checkpoints.
While it won't help them avoid the revealing scanners or intimate checks by agents, travelers willing to submit to a one-time iris scan, fingerprinting and background check are issued a Clear card granting them the privilege of jumping to the front of the line. Special kiosks scan fliers' eyes using biometrics technology. A Clear employee checks the passenger's boarding pass, just as a TSA agent would.
The program, which costs $179 yearly, officially opened last week in Denver after returning to Orlando International Airport in October.
The Clear card was first launched by businessman Steven Brill in 2005 as a way to help frequent fliers avoid long airport security lines in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. His company declared bankruptcy in 2009. The Clear lanes at 23 of the nation's airports were abruptly closed and the memberships of as many as 200,000 customers were never refunded.
As the backlash continues over the TSA's invasive security screening at some airports, many security experts, as well as the union for the nation's flight attendants, have suggested similar trusted traveler programs as a way to alleviate the long lines and repeated screenings faced by frequent fliers.
Existing Clear Members Honored
Kate Hanni, founder and spokeswoman for the flier advocacy group Flyersrights.org, said she believes pre-screening programs should be expanded by the TSA.
"This creates a way for low-risk people to get though quickly and unclog the lines for the rest of the travelers," Hanni said. "We need to start looking at the people, opposed to the objects on their bodies."
The new owners of Clear say they hope to return to at least 12 airports by the end of next year. All existing memberships are being honored, beginning when a traveler uses their Clear card for the first time, or when one of the lanes returns to the member's home airport.