Registered Traveler program struggles for support

Privatized 'fast' security programs still not seeing widespread acceptance

Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travelers Coalition, has worked as a consultant to both Clear and FLO (short for Fast Lane Option Corp.) and says the future of the registered traveler program may hinge on forging relationships with major airlines and offering other travel-related services to fliers.

"It's a brand new industry and one that isn't going away," Mitchell said. "It's been a struggle, but the fact of the matter is, it's law."

However, Uselding says: "The registered traveler program is viewed as noncritical by the TSA. It is not a mandated program."

While Clear has spent the past year battling the federal agency, Brill's leading rival, FLO, has been planning for an aggressive ramp-up in 2008.

Luke Thomas, a vice president at FLO, said the slow growth of fast-lane security screening may be the result of false expectations. "Some of the projections were grossly exaggerated," Thomas said of the timetables.

The providers need to have the sponsorship of an airline or an airport operator. Without the support of the major airlines, the registered traveler providers have been squeezed out of bustling airport terminals, including Terminal C of Newark Liberty.

Continental, which runs the terminal, said it has kept Clear out because it already provides an exclusive TSA security line, for members of its Elite program.

But Gogarty, who describes himself as a loyal Continental customer, said the airline's Elite flier status doesn't provide the same convenience.

On a recent flight about to leave Newark, Gogarty said, Continental announced boarding for Elite members and a crowd of passengers lined up. "There were only four people left," he said. "It seemed like the whole plane was Elite.

"When you show your Clear card in Orlando, you're going to the front of the line," he said. "In Newark, you're still waiting in line. Even at the Elite line, there's still a wait."