Biometrics-Confirmed Identity Program Takes Off at Airport

Fliers sign up en masse for airport security pass, possible national expansion ahead


Would you spend $80 a year to be whisked through airport security lines faster than everyone else? The private company that has offered such a service since July in Orlando, Fla., says 10,000 frequent fliers have signed up, which could bode well for a national expansion of such programs.

The Orlando program, known as Clear, is run by Verified Identity Pass Inc., which was founded by media entrepreneur Steven Brill. It is the only privately operated version of the government's recently ended "Registered Traveler" test program to let prescreened fliers with biometric passes speed through checkpoints.

Federal officials are evaluating the results from the Registered Traveler test before deciding how to proceed. It was free, but capped at 10,000 participants at five airports, and cards issued at one were not good at others.

In hopes of showing the healthy prospects for its system, Verified Identity Pass said this week Clear had gotten 10,000 members despite charging $79.95 a year.

The company boasted that its members spend an average of four seconds - and never more than three minutes - waiting to go through security, compared with an average of four minutes and a maximum of a half-hour for everyone else.

As might be expected, Clear members - who go through finger and iris scans in addition to background checks - tend to be frequent fliers, making an average of 3.8 trips through the Orlando airport each month.

Spokeswoman Cindy Rosenthal said the company is in talks with other airports about an expansion, though approval would have to come from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. More than 50 U.S. airports have joined a consortium to hammer out technical standards for a nationwide system.

(c) 2005 Associated Press