SFO eager to let fliers once again cut in line 

click to enlarge Second chance: The earlier expedited security check program at SFO was discontinued in 2009 when the company running it filed for bankruptcy. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Images File Photo
  • Second chance: The earlier expedited security check program at SFO was discontinued in 2009 when the company running it filed for bankruptcy.

San Francisco International Airport is relaunching a program that lets travelers bypass long security lines for a fee, billing it as a way to cut down on stress and waiting when traveling.

In July 2009, an earlier service that essentially allowed air travelers to cut to the front of security check-in lines was shut down when the company administering the program at SFO and 17 other airports went out of business. About 40,000 people were signed up with the program locally.

Such arrangements became possible in 2005 when the U.S. Transportation Security Administration allowed private companies to perform those services at airports around the country.

This year, Alclear Inc. was selected by SFO to re-launch the program, known as CLEAR, after winning a competitive bidding process. The company runs a similar service at airports in Orlando, Fla., and Denver. Under the program, travelers swipe CLEAR cards in special kiosks and then use fingerprints or iris scans to confirm their identities. A program attendant then escorts the traveler to the front of the security line for screening by the TSA.

Under the three-year contract, with a three-year option, Alclear leases about 700 square feet of space for seven security checkpoint locations and four enrollment stations in three airport terminals. The airport is expected to receive $2.8 million during the three-year term. Travelers would have to pay $179 annually for the service, or $229 per family.

A September letter from the chief financial officer at Denver International Airport said the program was successful and “the most common feedback we get regarding CLEAR is that customers want it in more airports.”

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee is expected to approve the lease Friday, with the  full board voting Tuesday. It was approved by the Airport Commission in January.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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