If you pay for a "pass", you can "fly through airport security"??

Is this for real or a gimmick?

“Clear members pass through airport security faster, with more predictability and less hassle.”


This part alarms me:

“This portion of your application can be completed at any Clear enrollment station. A Clear attendant will verify two pieces of approved government-issued identification, capture images of your irises and fingerprints, and take your photograph.”

I have really mixed feelings about this. While I would rather trust my life to the terrorist detecting abilities of my cat than the average TSA worker, something just doesn’t sit well with me about this.

Why isn’t this a good idea? Or is it?

I work with someone who signed up for the program. She likes it, primarily because the two major airports near DC (Dulles and National) both participate in the program, and are subject to long lines, and she is a frequent traveler.

It is described to me as being like one of those things you can pay extra money for at an amusement park, in which you basically cut to the front of the line. You still have to have your bag x-rayed and go through the magnetometer. If you are an occasional flier, I have a hard time imagining why you’d want to pay the annual fee.

As far as the TSA having biometric information about you, I don’t understand what the big deal is. It is just used to identify you as you approach security: put your Clear card in a terminal, scan your peepers, and cut ahead in line. Just because the TSA has your fingerprints doesn’t mean they can track you by satellite or anything, nor is it like a rogue TSA agent is going to sell your iris scan to a terrorist to create a fake eyeball to use your identity to bypass security. YMMV.

If the persons eligible for this ‘pass’ have had a government security clearance issued in the last 5 years, I would be all in favor of this.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and as far as I know, no one is out to get me.

I just truly find this process unsettling.

Not today, anyway…

Does anybody remember the days when cashiers would ask for your credit card number and write it down on the back of your check as an alternate form of ID, and then they determined that people could use that CC# to steal from you? Or when the CC slips used to have carbons, and people would go through the trash looking for the carbons and get your number that way?

That we do not currently have a way to take advantage of this potentially vast amount of data being compiled does not mean it cannot be taken advantage of. Any system can be hacked. If they don’t need this info, they shouldn’t have access to it.

There are two other things wrong with this:

  1. The pretense of security. These systems are always defeatable. Always. Pretending that having the biometrics makes them secure against even modestly financed terrorists is harmful. People will rely on the system to “take care of it”. Which is the worst thing that can happen. People have to be on alert all the time.

(Real life recent example. The UK is rolling out new “uncrackable” electronic passports. Cracked already. Oh, and several thousand have gone missing from the manufacturer. Nice one. In short, from here on out the border folk should ignore the electronic part completely and treat it like an ordinary passport. Wanna bet they won’t actually do that?)

  1. $. We already have “express lines” for first class and other special groups. (I.e., people with money.) This is mainly an excuse to make it even easier for them. I don’t believe that security should care about class boundaries. We’re all passengers. We should all be treated the same. Period.

Actually, it is more about frequent fliers, not ones with lots of money. Frequent fliers don’t have to be directed to take their laptop out of their briefcase, separate liquids into the little baggies, or to take off their shoes. It’s more about expediting those who know what they’re doing at airport security, and reaping some money from those who’d like to pay for the privilege.

The people don’t bypass the security checks, they just go to the front of the line. (Or, in some cases, a separate line.)

  1. $. We already have “express lines” for first class and other special groups. (I.e., people with money.) This is mainly an excuse to make it even easier for them. I don’t believe that security should care about class boundaries. We’re all passengers. We should all be treated the same. Period.

This is the part I agree with wholeheartedly, and I say that as an extemely frequent flier who gets the benefit of these lines. Security should be security. The TSA apparently justifies this part as the line not being their responsibility…it’s the airport’s. But there is at least the perception that security (a federal government function in the TSA-era) is easier for people with either the money for first class, or frequent fliers. I think I could even sort of buy the frequent flier argument based on the idea that these people know how to navigate security quickly and efficiently, but adding first class folks to the expedited line sends the message that you can buy your way through security.

Or business travelers who fly a lot

Oh lookie here, you can use your Clear card to tailgate an extra (x) hours in the parking lot then zip right into the stadium at 49er games. Thank goodness this technology is keeping us safe from foam-fingered terrorists!


I am all for it. A better idea though is simply charge for one of the lines. In a hurry today-pay 10. On vacation or arrived early-take the regular line. If too many people get in the for-pay line, people bail out and go to the regular line. It is self-regulating and cheap to set up. As has been posted, all this special line does is create a shorter line for some. It doesn't improve security on the plane but it doesn't worsen it either. Since the airport runs the lines while the TSA runs the scans, the airport can make with this idea. No one is excluded from paying for the line. Heck, you could have $10 and $5 lines if you want. Sell it as a concession.

The only downside is that for some people it damages the illusion that the scans offer increased security on the plane. Some advertising could solve that.

Another downside is it creates an incentive to the airport to run slow lines that people will pay to avoid. Maybe they could start auctioning off the next spot in line to the highest bidder for optimal revenue.

It stinks of extortion to me. If the TSA was actually a competent organisation working to ensure your safety I’d be all for pre-screening being available, but I dislike the idea of charging people to not be harassed by a bunch of troglodytes.

Note that airport security is not a private company. If an airline wants to charge you twice as much to have a semi-comfortable seat, that’s their business. But TSA is a government organization. Our government should treat us all equally. I don’t care if you use labels like “business flyer” of “frequent flyer”. They all come down to distinguishing people based on $.

That’s just wrong.

Fine. So have a line for “pay $50 and get a kick in the nuts if you take longer than 15 seconds to get your stuff on the X-ray belt or set off the detector” and another for “I don’t understand how airport security works, this is gonna take me a moment”.
Either way, everybody gets their stuff x-rayed, everybody gets arched/wanded, using identical machines, by identical staff. Frequent travellers don’t get pissed off by the once-a-year crowd, who in turn escape the :rolleyes: and <sigh> and <mumblemumble> from impatient people behind them. Plus watching people get kicked in the nuts is ALWAYS entertaining and should help pass time in the queue.

However, since no airport has the gumption to set this up, flyclear, Privium and the like will do well.

good points. However, regulation and publicity could keep that under control. Like a rule that says you must always have at least as many free lines open as for pay. Remember TSA controls the scanning, the airport controls the lines. As for the auction, well, doesn’t sound practical. Good idea though. Gives the people in line something to comment on while they are waiting. :slight_smile: