Proposed Bill Could Ban Line-Skipping Service ‘CLEAR’ at California Airports

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
April 23, 2024California
A California bill aimed at CLEAR, a company that lets travelers pay to skip parts of airport security lines, passed its initial legislative stage but with modifications. This bill, SB-1372, is the first of its kind in the United States as it targets companies like CLEAR that offer expedited security screening for a fee. 

California lawmakers are pushing to ban the line-skipping service CLEAR from operating in traditional airport security lines over equity concerns.

Senate Bill 1372 would require CLEAR to get its own dedicated security lane or lose the ability to operate in California airports, according to Senator Josh Newman (D-Calif.), who sponsored the legislation. According to the senator, passengers’ quality of experience at the airport should not be contingent on how much money they have.

“The least you can expect when you have to go through the security line at the airport is that you don’t suffer the indignity of somebody pushing you out of the way to let the rich person pass you,” said the senator in a statement on social media platform X.

The Senate Transportation Committee moved the bill forward with an 8–4 vote on Tuesday, sending it to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

The program charges its members a $189 annual subscription fee and uses biometrics to verify identity through eye or fingerprint scanning at pods located in airports.

After the information is checked, paid members are escorted through a security lane—bypassing other waiting passengers—and go directly through physical security screening. CLEAR is a private program, unlike TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, which are both run by the government.

However, the proposed bill faces pushback from other lawmakers who believe targeting the program is a waste of time.

“Lol. Too much time on our hands. We need to shorten the legislative session,” Assemblyman Joe Patterson said in a post on X.

Proponents, on the other hand, believe that the move would streamline the process and still allow CLEAR to operate its business. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) claimed it would restore equity among all passengers by promoting a separate security lane for CLEAR members.

“SB 1372 would restore equal access and treatment at the airport security checkpoint by requiring companies like CLEAR to operate in a dedicated security lane, separate from general travelers and TSA PreCheck members. This separation would preserve CLEAR’s ability to operate in California but in a way that streamlines the security process for everyone moving through California’s airports, whether CLEAR customers or not,” the union wrote in a statement.

CLEAR is available at nearly 50 airports nationwide and has partnered with Delta, United, and Alaska.

Six major airlines oppose the proposed bill due to concerns over revenue loss, which could ultimately result in an increase in airfare, according to their letter to the Senate Transportation Committee. The airlines said the CLEAR program verified frequent fliers over five million times in California in 2023 alone.

This means that the airlines’ “most loyal customers” find value in using CLEAR, the airlines’ letter states.

According to CLEAR, the program has helped boost airport revenue and create jobs.

“We are proud to partner with nine airports across California—creating hundreds of jobs, sharing more than $13 million in annual revenue with our California airport partners, and serving nearly 1 million Californians,” CLEAR said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

But the program continues to face major criticism over recent security breaches. In one incident, a passenger traveling with ammunition successfully managed to navigate to the TSA checkpoint without proper identification.

Sara Nelson, AFA President, said she supports the proposal to allow CLEAR to operate separately.

“TSA PreCheck is a federal program that collects biometric data (fingerprints, photo), verifies identity documents, and expedites screening for low-risk passengers. CLEAR doesn’t add any enhanced layer of security. In fact, CLEAR members must also register for TSA PreCheck if they want to take advantage of expedited screening. CLEAR is a pay-for-play way to cut the screening line,” she said in a statement.

“Let TSA do its job,” she said.

NTD reached out to CLEAR for comment.

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