Goodbye, Clear

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If your travel gear included a Clear pass to bypass security lines at airports, the card is now nothing more than an expensive souvenir of a failed business plan.

The debt-riddled company suddenly shut down its operations at all airports, leaving this brief message on its website: “At 11:00 p.m. PST on June 22, 2009, Clear will cease operations. Clear’s parent company, Verified Identity Pass, Inc. has been unable to negotiate an agreement with its senior creditor to continue operations.”

To me, Clear offered only one advantage—and a really huge disadvantage.

The sole advantage, for $199 a year, was being able to use special Clear lanes at airports where the company operated.  At some airports, bypassing the regular security lines could save a lot of time.  (Airlines’ most-frequent travelers, though, still had elite security lines at some airports without Clear.)

But the Clear program never really reached its potential.  Clear customers had to go through the same security procedures as everyone else—including taking off shoes and jackets, liquid restrictions and all the other requirements of the TSA.

The disturbing part is that everyone who joined the Clear program had to give this private company (and the TSA) fingerprint and iris scans.  I never joined Clear.  But if I had, I would be extremely concerned about what happens to this information now that the company has gone defunct.

I can hear it now—they’ll surely say all the biometric and fingerprint data is secure, you don’t need to worry.  But how much can you trust a company that shuts down with little notice while being hounded by creditors?

clearJust a couple of weeks ago, the Clear website had this suggestion posted to “give the gift of predictability.”  It’s difficult to believe a company that was on the verge of shutting down would use the word “predictability.”

When the concept was first discussed, the Clear program was supposed to offer some advantages to travelers who had been vetted—maybe avoiding some of the security procedures like taking off jackets, since TSA would know who they were and that they posed little risk.  But after going through the maze of TSA red tape, the registered traveler program was diluted and wound up offering only one advantage—shorter lines.

For some, it seemed worth it at the time.  In hindsight, maybe not.

About Author

John Gordon is a Texas-based video producer who travels extensively in search of interesting stories. Technology plays a big role in his work, from digital recording to uploading photos and videos from far-flung places.

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