New York City-based Clear has installed terminals that use biometrics — as in fingerprint and eyeball-iris scanning — to identify travelers in a jiffy.
(TNS) — Going through airport security can be wildly inconsistent. You never know if you’ll be line for just a few minutes, or for an hour or more.
Technology now available at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport could make this annoying process a lot more predictable and expeditious — while adding a touch of sci-fi pizzazz.
New York City-based Clear has installed terminals that use biometrics — as in fingerprint and eyeball-iris scanning — to identify travelers in a jiffy. Five of these terminals are set up in the airport’s Lindbergh terminal, three at the southern checkpoint and two at the northern one.
Such a fingerprint- or eyeball-scanning procedure looks to speed up check-ins for registered Clear users because they get dedicated lanes that no one else can use. The Twin Cities airport now has two such express lanes.
In practice, Clear users could find themselves whipping through security time after time while others cool their heels in long, pokier-moving queues.
Clear users would still have to go through metal detectors and bag scanners but would hypothetically get to those much more quickly.
“Our customers love the predictability,” said David Cohen, Clear’s chief administrative officer.
The Twin Cities airport is the 21st such facility to get Clear terminals; Los Angeles International Airport is due to get the technology soon. Clear recently deployed at airports in Atlanta, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Washington state. It equipped its first such facility, Orlando International Airport, in 2010.
The company, while authorized to operate by the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security, does not work directly with the federal government. Instead, it makes deals with airport authorities that include the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which owns and operates the Twin Cities airport.
“We are pleased to partner with Clear to provide one more option travelers can use to reduce their security checkpoint wait time,” said Brian Ryks, executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, in a statement. “Clear’s presence at a growing number of airports means many travelers will be able to use the service at both ends of their trip.”
The Twin Cities airport also has a handful of registration terminals for travelers who want to get set up with the system. This is a three-step process.
First, they answer detailed questions based on their personal histories, like where they lived and what kinds of cars they owned. Second, they have their IDs — such as their drivers' licenses, passports or military cards — scanned and verified. Third, they have their 10 fingerprints and two irises scanned and registered.
Clear claims the automated registration takes all of five minutes, and registrants can begin using the service right away. Getting through security at that point requires only a boarding pass along with a fingerprint or iris scan. A fingerprint scanner is at waist level on the front of the scanning unit, with the iris scanner at eye level.
Soon, even the boarding pass may become superfluous. Clear said it recently conducted a trial at the Mineta San José International Airport that required only a biometric scan, which automatically dredges up the travelers’ boarding information for processing.
Clear is entirely separate from TSA PreCheck, a sped-up check-in service that lets travelers keep their shoes and belts on and their laptops in their bags. But, if the programs are used together, travelers can potentially get through security in only about five minutes, the company claims.
“When used in combination with the TSA’s PreCheck, it’s like the Golden Certificate in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory,” said Andy Abramson, CEO of the California-based Comunicano public-relations agency.
“It is incredibly easy to sign up and go through the necessary steps to participate including having my fingerprints and irises scanned, thus allowing me to have my identification authenticated via biometrics,” said Steve Loucks, chief communications officer at Plymouth-based Travel Leaders Group.
“It was especially easy for me since I already have TSA PreCheck,” Loucks said. “The entire process took me less than five minutes at the San Francisco Airport, and once I went through the process, I was immediately escorted to the front of the TSA PreCheck line. All told, it was a very pleasant and surprisingly fast experience.”
Professional comedian and frequent traveler Dan Nainan said, “Have you ever tried to fly out of Las Vegas? Even the TSA PreCheck line can be astronomical. I love how Clear clears you (there is never a line) and then they escort you to the front of the line and you actually get to cut in front of everyone and they put your bags on the belt and people are like, ‘Who is this guy?’ It’s fantastic.”
Clear is a paid commercial service, but registrants get the first month for free. After that, it officially costs $179 a year, though it is often running specials.
Delta Airlines fliers qualify for discounts that include $99 annual memberships for SkyMiles users, $79 annual memberships for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members, and free annual memberships for Diamond Medallion users. The airline has a 5 percent stake in Clear.
Adult users can register a spouse for $50, and children under 17 get to use the service for free.
Clear recently logged 700,000 registered users and said it’s now well on its way to the million mark. With the Twin Cities and Los Angeles airports on board, it claims it will have a presence at facilities used by a majority of U.S. air travelers.
Clear is also offering its technology to sports stadiums. It is using biometric check-ins at Yankee Stadium, the New York Mets’ Citi Field, the Miami Marlins’ Marlins Park, the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park, and the Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field.
©2017 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.