Want to Skip Airport Lines? New Biometric Service Promises to Cut Salt Lake Airport Wait Times

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Alioune Fall, a CLEAR ambassador, shows Rex Falkenrath how to scan his iris while signing up for a new biometric, fee-based service that allows travelers to move past manual ID verification lines by using fingerprints and iris scans, at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — The often arduous, post-911 airport security process has become an expected, albeit unpleasant necessity for air travelers in a world that has witnessed the weaponization of passenger jets.

Now, tech advancements in the biometrics realm will help move passengers a little faster through the system, according to a company that officially launched its identity confirmation service Thursday at Salt Lake City International Airport’s Terminal 2.

David Cohen, chief administrative officer of CLEAR, said his company’s fee-based service — available at 23 U.S. airports including Salt Lake City — is about efficiency, ease-of-use and making air travel just a bit smoother.

“Today, the travel experience is fraught with friction,” Cohen said. “People head to the airport thinking, ‘What is my checkpoint experience going to be this time? Last time it was 10 minutes, but the time before that, it was an hour.'”

“That’s a question that becomes a real point of stress. And, CLEAR addresses that with a fast, easy and secure solution.”

That solution happens in a dedicated lane at the airport, adjacent to the Transportation Security Administration lines, that is populated with CLEAR pods (think small, futuristic ATMs) that are the interface for the ID verification process.

New users are required to scan in a government-issued ID, like a driver’s license or passport, answer a few verification questions, then when the user’s identity has been confirmed, the pod interface guides users through fingerprint and iris image scanning. CLEAR says the registration process typically takes three to five minutes to complete and can also be started at home, via the CLEAR website.

On subsequent trips, registered users need only stop by the pod for a brief fingerprint or iris scan, after which they are walked to the screening area, or TSA PreCheck line, by CLEAR ambassadors.

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The convenience of moving quickly through the ID stage of the TSA process comes with a price, however. CLEAR requires a one-year commitment from new users at a cost of $179. Family members over the age of 18 can be added for $50 per person and children under 18 are free.

Travelers who participate in Delta Airlines programs are eligible for discounts, with rates falling to $99 per year for general SkyMiles members, $79 per year for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members and, if you happen to be a Diamond Medallion participant, your CLEAR subscription is complimentary.

Cohen said Delta, which is the anchor carrier at the Salt Lake airport, has “really embraced the advantages of biometrics” and could also be working with CLEAR in the near future on a newly developed boarding pass system that would also take advantage of the biometric pods, eliminating the paper and digital boarding pass completely.

Airport spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said CLEAR was granted a nonexclusive contract, which requires a $150,000 annual concession fee, and also allows other companies to apply to offer similar services at the facility. She said the deal is in line with agreements that have previously been granted to MorphoTrust USA, which registers passengers with TSA PreCheck, and the Global Entry program for international travelers.

Airport interim Executive Director Russell Pack said CLEAR was a welcome addition to the security operations at the facility.

“The Salt Lake City International Airport is pleased to partner with CLEAR to provide a new option for travelers to reduce their wait time in security,” Pack said.

CLEAR hired 20 local employees for their initial service offering and Cohen said the system is easily expandable to track with user volumes.

To learn more about CLEAR, visit clearme.com/home.

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