Let’s Be Clear

Paul Bowers

With more passengers being screened by TSA than ever before, checkpoint wait times are increasing accordingly. And the advantage that PreCheck initially offered for speeding through security just isn’t what it used to be. As passengers, we look for every tactic possible to expedite the screening process and get to our gates on time.

Increasingly, I’ve become annoyed at having to wait in the PreCheck lane while people in the Clear lane prance past to the very front of the line. Didn’t I pay good money when enrolling in PreCheck so I could sail ahead of the unanointed general population? After all, that’s what enrolling in programs allows us to do. Looks like I’ve been out-Checked by the Clear crowd!

Fear not. This spring, a bill was introduced in California that would restrict Clear from operating at the state’s airports in its current format. Essentially, the bill says that the service raises equity issues because it effectively allows wealthier people to skip ahead of other passengers waiting to be screened by TSA. The bill, which has not been codified into law so far, does include an accommodation: Airports that insist on allowing Clear to operate at their terminals need to establish dedicated lanes for its customers, rather than routing them through the PreCheck lane. 

Frankly, I have a bigger problem with this bill than I do with Clear allowing its members to skip ahead of passengers with PreCheck. What’s the big deal with this proposed legislation?

1) PreCheck, TSA’s own program, does the same thing to non-members as Clear does to PreCheck customers. It allows people who pay to enroll and are pre-vetted to skip ahead of other passengers.

2) It would create a different rule in one state that affects a federal program operating in all 50 states. Bad idea.

3) Our industry is built on programs that have long provided premium services to those who are willing to pay more: first-class tickets, valet parking, airport lounges and more. It’s simply a microcosm of the world in which we live.

I’ll admit, this California bill caught my attention. But it won’t fix anything and, in fact, could create more problems. A better idea is to allow TSA and airports to continue refining how they serve passenger guests—safely and efficiently.


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