$179 Annual Fee To Allow People To Move To Front Line At San Francisco International Airport

Faster security screening offered for a fee at SFO (San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 1, 2012):

Frequent travelers who use San Francisco International Airport once again will be able to get through security a little faster with the return of a fee-based pre-screening program approved by the Airport Commission on Tuesday.

The CLEAR program, operated by a private company, Alclear LLC, will allow people to move to – or near – the front of the line to get their carry-on items screened. It will allow them to bypass the regular first tier of security where travelers must provide a driver’s license or passport to a Transportation Security Administration employee and instead use an automated kiosk.

“It provides predictability in getting to the front of the line and getting through clearance faster,” said SFO director John Martin.

Participants must pay a $179 annual fee for the special treatment. Spouses or domestic partners can be added on for an extra $50, and their children 17 years old and younger can join for free.

Under the program, the company verifies the identity of participants and creates a card embedded with a digital chip that includes the biometric images of the person’s unique fingerprint and iris.

When they arrive at the airport, they insert their card into an ATM-like kiosk, scan either their eye or finger, and if there’s a match, are escorted by a CLEAR employee to the front of the next checkpoint line where carry-on items are searched.

A similar program, which cost $200 a year, was in place at SFO until 2009 when the previous vendor faced financial problems and shut down abruptly.

The new company will honor any time remaining on travelers’ annual memberships under the old operator, said Caryn Seidman Becker, CEO of Alclear. About 40,000 Bay Area travelers – and 200,000 people nationally – had been signed up for the pre-screening perk under the previous incarnation.

The service is expected to be running again by April, Becker said. It already is operating at airports in Denver and Orlando.

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