Clear uses biometric identification (fingerprints and iris images) to verify the person holding a boarding pass is a member and is ready for final clearance by the TSA. Members pay $179 annually for the service.
"Consumers are loving the Clear experience," said Caryn Seidman-Becker, chairman and CEO of Clear. "Not only does it strengthen security but it brings consumers a fast, frictionless experience."
Since Seidman-Becker and a business partner bought Clear in 2010, she's been growing the company by leveraging the speed and security of biometric identification. In the last year, enrollment is up more than 200 percent to more than a half-million members. People who are willing to pay to avoid security lines that seem to be getting worse.
This week American Airlines blamed the Transportation Security Administration for almost 6,800 passengers missing their flights during one week in mid-March because they were stuck getting through security. "The lines at TSA checkpoints nationwide have become unacceptable," American spokesman Ross Feinstein said. "Our customers are waiting in TSA lines greater than one hour."
When asked about complaints regarding long lines, a TSA spokesperson said, "While we at TSA have a robust plan to address the volume — including more canine use, encouraging 'PreCheck' enrollment, overtime, accelerated hiring and more, we are appreciative that our airline partners are working with us and asking travelers to arrive at the airport two hours early for domestic flights to help alleviate some of the expected summer congestion."
Clear is at just 13 airports, and expanding to more has been slow, in part, because many airports have limited space for TSA lines. With space limited, there's a reluctance to free up one of those lines for Clear and a relatively small number of travelers compared to those going through TSA lanes.
While Seidman-Becker sees congestion at airports as a clear opportunity, she wants to push biometric identification even further. The company is testing a pilot program in San Jose, California, where members show up at the airport, put their fingers on the Clear machine to prove their identity and their boarding pass immediately comes up. "You don't need your cellphone, you don't need a ticket in terms of a paper ticket, you just tap and go. It is that seamless, frictionless experience from curb to gate, it's awesome."