Thursday, September 23, 2010

Airport Security Lexus Lanes Are Back

For all those frequent travelers who don't like waiting in the security line at airports, Clear is back.

Clear, in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration, lets passengers who have opted to have their backgrounds checked, fingerprints taken, and irises scanned, slip ahead of the masses and take the fast lane through airport security.

Clear, or Fly Clear as it was sometimes called, charged its members $199 a year.  It abruptly closed down on June 22, 2009.  At the time Clear had 260,000 members. Clear is extending its previous members' memberships, and new members can join on Clear's website for $179 a year.

At Dulles, Clear worked this way: Instead of using the normal security lanes, Clear members went through the airline crew's security entrance, which was located near the baggage claim. At National Airport, those with Clear cards simply slipped in front of the line. Your iris or fingerprint was then scanned, the normal security search was done, and you were on your way. For a moment, as your eye is being scanned, you can imagine that you're in some thriller movie where you have to enter the super secret vault -- until you have to remove your shoes like everyone else.

Clear is not yet fully operational:  Its Denver speed lane will open in October; Orlando follows in November. When Clear shut down in 2009, it had arrangements with 21 airports.

While Clear was the major player when it came to getting through airport security quickly, there are other options for bypassing those long lines. If you're a Southwest Airlines very frequent flyer --32 one-way or 16 round trip flights a year--  or a Businesses Select customer, you get priority screening and boarding through Southwest's A-List Member program. Other airlines offer priority screening for their most frequent flyers and first or business class passengers, but unlike Clear, these programs are a la cart: You can use them only with specific airlines or specific flights.

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