Registered travelers hit the friendly skies at SFO

Registered traveler lanes allowing preapproved airline travelers to speed through security checkpoints — a program that has already attracted thousands — rolled out Tuesday at San Francisco International Airport.

Officials with Verified Identity Pass Inc., the company pushing the national registered traveler program called Clear, announced last month that the much-anticipated FasTrak-style lanes would be available Sept. 6. They estimated then that the program, geared toward business travelers who fly anywhere between 20 and 40 times per year, would occupy the international terminal at the end of this year.

After the announcement, 1,000 people signed up on the first day. In the month after officialsheralded its arrival, 4,000 people signed up to fly out of SFO as registered travelers, VIP spokeswoman Cindy Rosenthal said.

After completing a preliminary registration online at www.flyclear.com, a traveler must undergo a retina scan, fingerprinting and an extensive background check, comparable to those airport employees undergo before being hired, Airport Director John Martin said during the August announcement.

Travelers then fork over the annual fee of $99.95 and receive a biometric ID card that allows them to use their own lanes.

A year ago, the airport said it did not plan on adding the fast-track checkpoint lanes to its terminals, pointing to quick and painless security waits of approximately four minutes. But a host of officials from new carriers at SFO from JetBlue Airways, Virgin America, Southwest Airlines and, in October, Irish airline Aer Lingus, said the demand was there to support such a program.

SFO joins 10 other airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Orlando International Airport in Florida, participating in the program. LaGuardia International Airport, also in New York, rolls out the program later this month.

Clear lanes are open to travelers out of domestic Terminal 1 from 4:30 a.m. to midnight, and in domestic Terminal 3 from 4:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

VIP Chief Executive Steven Brill said the benefit lies in knowing exactly how long the security wait will be — 30 seconds to four minutes. Rosenthal said with the rollout of the program at the end of this year in the international terminal, the company hopes to grab Virgin America travelers headed to destinations such as New York.

“Now when I travel coast to coast through JFK and SFO, I’ll get the same fast, reliable experience I’ve been getting at other lanes around the country,” participant Doug Cameron said.

After completing a preliminary registration online at www.flyclear.com, a traveler must undergo a retina scan, fingerprinting and an extensive background check, comparable to those airport employees undergo before being hired, Airport Director John Martin said.

SFO registered traveler program

Starts: Now (domestic); end of 2007 (international)

Where to sign up: Online at www.flyclear.com, then at a registration kiosk

Kiosks located at: Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, SFO Terminals 1 and 3

Cost: $99.95 annually, with one-time $28 fee for background check

Corporate discounts available? Yes

Time to get card: Two to four weeks

How long it takes to get through security: 30 seconds to four minutes

How it works:

» Present biometric card to security officer

» Use thumbprint or iris to verify identity via machine

» Put carry-on belongings in bin to be scanned

» Walk through metal scanner

Airports with Clear lanes:

» Albany, N.Y.

» Cincinnati

» Indianapolis

» Newark, N.J.

» New York City (John F. Kennedy)

» Orlando, Fla.

» Reno-Tahoe, Nev.

» San Jose

» San Francisco

Clear lanes coming soon:

» New York City (LaGuardia)

» Little Rock, Ark.

» Westchester, N.Y.

– Source: Verified Identity Pass Inc.

tramroop@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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