SFO travelers ‘Clear’-ed for takeoff

Travelers heading through San Francisco International Airport will soon be able to fly through security — with their shoes on — but they will have to pay the price of a retina scan, fingerprinting, an extensive background check and approximately $100 a year.

The program, called Clear, should take from 30 seconds to four minutes for flyers registered in the much-anticipated traveler plan to pass through specified fast-track checkpoint lanes, company officials said.

Offered by the company Verified Identity Pass, the fast-pass program, which is geared toward frequent travelers who fly anywhere between 20 and 40 times per year, rolls out in the domestic terminals on Sept. 6 with two “Clear” lanes, officials announced Wednesday. It debuts in the International Terminal at the end of this year.

To enroll, travelers are required to undergo a thorough background screening comparable to those that airport employees undergo before being hired, Airport Director John Martin said. After the annual fee of $99.95, a pre-approved traveler will receive a biometric ID card that allows them to use the FasTrak-style lanes.

Though registered travelers won’t have to shed their shoes, they will have to present the biometric card, scan their thumbprint or iris, place carry-on belongings on a conveyor belt for inspection and walk through a metal detector.

The screening program also includes brand-new technology that scans shoes for explosives — negating the need for pesky shoe removal for registered travelers. Clear CEO and founder Steven Brill expects the shoe-scanning technology will be on hand for the program’s September rollout at SFO.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, on hand at the SFO news conference Wednesday, touted the program as a step toward heading off potential delays down the road.

“Nothing will make me happier than spending $99.95 to not take off my shoes,” he said Wednesday.

A year ago, the airport said it did not plan on adding the fast-track checkpoint lanes to its terminals, pointing to quick security waits of approximately four minutes, according to Martin.

But in anticipation of an expected increase in delays from a host of new domestic service from JetBlue Airways, Virgin America and Southwest Airlines, airport officials said efficiency at SFO would need to be stepped up. Newsom said more needs to be done and he has his eyes open for more ways to boost efficiency.

David Vossbrink, spokesman at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, which also utilizes the program, said that the Clear lanes have been successful. Approximately 6,000 travelers have registered at that airport, a proportionally higher number of business travelers than at SFO.

Quick clearance

Rollout date

» Sept. 6 (domestic terminal); end of 2007 (international)

Cost

» $99.95 annually; one-time $28 fee for background check

Two-step enrollment

» www.flyclear.com, then at registration kiosk

Kiosk locations

» Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, SFO Terminals 1 and 3

Wait time for card

» Two to four weeks

Time through security

» 30 seconds to 4 minutes

Airports with Clear lanes

» Albany, N.Y.; Cincinnati/North Kentucky; Indianapolis; Newark, N.J.; John F. Kennedy (NYC); Orlando, Fla.; Reno-Tahoe; San Jose

Clear lanes coming soon

» San Francisco; LaGuardia (NYC); Little Rock (Ark.) National; Westchester County, N.Y.

HOW IT WORKS

» Present biometric card

» Scan thumbprint or iris

» Put carry-on belongings in bin

» Walk through metal scanner

– Source: Clear Registered Traveler program

tramroop@examiner.com


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