Back in line, suckers: Clear Lanes closes abruptly, angering fliers everywhere
Less than 24 hours after closing its service to move frequent travelers to the front of airport security lines, Clear announced on its Web site today that no, it won't be refunding any customers who bought $199 annual memberships.
And for any of its 250,000 customers worried about having their iris scans, fingerprints or other personal information sold or somehow ending up in another company's hands, Clear's Web site says: "Applicant and member data is currently secured in accordance with the Transportation Security Administration's Security, Privacy and Compliance Standards. Verified Identity Pass, Inc. will continue to secure such information and will take appropriate steps to delete the information."
A TSA spokesman told me that the agency doesn't "really have a dog in this fight" and said in a press release that 'TSA has no comment on Verified Identity Pass' announcement. The Clear program was market-drive, private sector venture, offered in partnership with airports and airlines in certain locations."
Verified Identity Pass couldn't negotiate credit to continue operating and closed service Monday night at the 20 airports it operated in across the country.
Clear -- the company that runs paid security lanes at 20 U.S. airports to speed its 250,000 members through airports -- is out of business.
Before the company's announcement that its "Clear lanes" would cease operation at 11 p.m. PST Monday, June 22, travelers were already complaining on the Internet that the traveler's best friend was out of business and that more people would have to wait in line again.
Most of the company's Web links were left with the simple message that Clear is ceasing operations and that its parent company, Verified Identity Pass, Inc., "has been unable to negotiate an agreement with its senior creditor to continue operations."
Clear members paid up to $199 for an annual membership for access to designated security lanes at participating airports nationwide. Some members paid three years in advance, and the company bragged of a 90% membership renewal rate.
Members provided biometric data, which was encoded on a card, for the promise of a speedier and convenient trip through airport security, according to an Atlanta Business Chronicle story. Their fingerprints and iris images are captured and their identifications are validated at Clear enrollment locations.
Lines at airports will probably be longer Tuesday, as some of the more than 250,000 Clear members nationwide who are flying will get in line with everyone else to get through security.
Before the closing, airport officials in Atlanta have said that additional non-Clear security lanes added at their airport have kept wait times below 10 minutes on average, making Clear lanes less advantageous to experienced fliers.
According to a press release that Clear put out on March 4, Clear lanes have been used nearly 2.5 million times nationwide since the service started on July 19, 2005.
The airports that Clear operated at are: Albany, Atlanta, Boston's Logan (Terminal A), Cincinnati, Denver, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, LaGuardia (Central Terminal B and Terminal D), Little Rock, New York JFK (Terminals 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7) Newark (Terminal B1 and B2), Oakland, Orlando, Reno, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Jose, Washington, D.C.'s Reagan and Dulles, and Westchester.
Business travelers were targeted by the company, which was launched by Court TV founder Steve Brill.
Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net