Clear, aka the "TSA fast pass," shuts down

Clear, Steve Brill's second baby turkey (the first being "Brill's Content") flops:
[Clear] rolled out with great fanfare July 18, 2005, in Orlando. Travelers initially paid $99 a year for a card that was supposed to target those who posed a minimum security risk, and give them a special line that would process them through airport security more quickly.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was slow to release the program from the pilot phase, finally giving the green light to roll out the program in January 2007. The program hit a snag after TSA halted the use of GE SRT kiosks designed to serve as a shoe scanner and explosives detection system, blunting one of the program's key benefits - allowing passengers to keep on shoes and jackets, and keep laptop computers in their bags.

If you were foolish enough to sign up for the service, or receive it for free as a conference amenity or executive perk (I know some good folks who did), now might be a good time to review Clear's data privacy policy (PDF Link). Oh wait, that's right...

Clear Shuts Down Registered Traveler Lanes (, via Dan Gillmor)

Related: Clear Airport Security Program Closes Abruptly; Will Flo Take Over?


  1. Too bad for a few folks. One of the training companies used extensively by my employer is headquartered in Florida. All of their staff signed up for Clear and said it was worthless pretty much everywhere EXCEPT Orlando. There, seasoned travelers frequently found themselves in line behind hundreds of Disney-vacationing families with little kids, families unused to flying and doing everything wrong while still trying to herd the ankle-biters. It was supposedly a nightmare. For that airport and that airport alone, those guys thought Clear was a godsend.

    Everywhere else? Their attitude was…meh.

  2. +1, I can imagine. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the TSA lines, hatehatehate the screening process and the sad, wasteful inefficiency by design. But this thing was doomed to epic fail.

  3. This was based on a serious misreading of the market. At most airports, the quickest way through security is by using a frequent flyer-only line. They’re almost always shorter and the people in these lines know the drill better than the once-a-year vacationers. Only a frequent flyer would bother with Clear, and if wasn’t available at every major airport, what’s the point?

  4. Here’s an idea, lets rewind the TSA to pre-9/11. Are we really any safer due to the post 9/11 security theater we’ve been subjected to?

  5. Clear, as an idea, was pretty cool — pre-registering with the TSA, essentially, and walking through without any of the shoe-removing pants-frisking ridiculousness. They’d even meet you in the lobby and waltz you through. But with their slow adoption nationwide, how many people really needed to pay that much to save a few minutes and feel like big kahunas in the airport?

  6. Yes we’re safer.

    Terrorists attempting to hijack a plane now would get so annoyed waiting for sweaty fat people who seem to have metal objects hidden all over their person that they give up and go home instead of going through the ritual.

    I mean, you can buy a ceramic blade for under 10$, but why bother when you have to be fondled by an alcoholic with acne and halitosis before you even get to stab anyone.

    (I don’t wish to apologize in advance to anyone who thinks the above rant is in bad taste)

  7. Like many things having to do with air travel, uncertain and limited availability probably hurt this significantly.

    There are many other examples of this problem in the industry, like in-flight wireless connections and power outlets. Why should I bother buying and bringing along a special adapter for my laptop if I can’t know beforehand whether the planes I’ll be flying on will actually work with them? How can I seriously use a wireless connection if I can’t rely on the plane having that feature?

    In the same way, why would I go through the hassle of getting a card like this if I couldn’t know whether it would be useful on the flights I might decide to take? $99 a year would be a very low price for being able to skip lines and annoying security procedures, but not for being able to only unreliably do so.

  8. Who would have thought I could use this screenshot more than once? I don’t think I’ll get another chance…

    Was there any sort of remediation program in case you lost your card? I mean, it has your name on it and some information on the chip… I guess they took care of that risk by losing the 33,000 name laptop, though.

  9. Bruce Schneier already pointed this out: the problem with pre-9/11 in-flight security was resolved with the addition of locked & armored cabin doors. The rest is theatre, and Clear was just privileged box seats.

  10. Hopefully now that more “politically powerful” travellers are inconvenienced like the rest of us by the TSA, we’ll start seeing more pressure to end the ridiculous shoes-off, computers-unprotected, no-liquids theatre and start providing actual security. (Not that I’m particularly hopeful in that regard since congress is busy introducing bills to make the TSA our national carry-on bag size enforcers. Sigh.)

  11. Am I missing something? This was a private company? After spending billions on the TSA we are farming security back out to contractors?

  12. I vaguely remember Brill’s Content as being a decent enough idea, maybe ahead of its time in promoting the “ALL MEDIA SUXX0RS” theme that blogs took and ran with. I hadn’t realized it had folded. Hell, it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page! Now THAT’S defunct.

  13. Once upon a time, I loved flying, I loved airports. The metal detectors installed in the ’70s were a bit of a nuisance but were tolerable. Now I hate the whole degrading scene. I only fly when I absolutely have to for business, and “have to” means traveling more than 1200 miles.

  14. I fly about every week for work and I have a Clear membership. My home airport is Denver, which had three Clear lanes. It has saved me so much time in the last two years. Sometimes the freq flyer line is very long, and the traffic management mixes everyone together, so it can be a pain to get behind a family or elderly people.
    What I want to know is if I get any of my membership money back. Previously if you canceled, you were entitled to a pro-rated rebate of unused time.

  15. I haven’t gotten on a plane since 9/11, and don’t plan to. Even on Greyhound four or five years ago they made a show of looking in everybody’s bags, even though the poor security guards obviously didn’t care what was actually in there. And the buses still picked people up off the highway at regular rural stops with no security whatsoever.

  16. ahhhhahahahahah!! that’s what those smug bastards get for so willingly exchanging their money and liberty to avoid waiting in the same line as the rest of us rabble.

    schadenfreude aside, i do feel alot safer now that this risky & deeply flawed program is history.

  17. gee, think how much money they would have saved if they had listened to say, Cory at the beginning – instead of forging ahead lining the pockets of their buddies and screwing the public. Why, it’s almost as if they were stupid AND corrupt.

  18. Hate the system (which I agree is hugely flawed), but calling us businessfolk who happily traded some money + *theoretical* privacy problems for real time savings “foolish”… well, that’s just foolish.

    Unless you smug ne’er-Clear-carried folks avoid credit cards, have somehow managed to never have your info show up in Equifax, have never procured a passport (yes, the gov’t has misplaced your information, too)… well, then please chill out with your tut-tut’ing.

  19. After missing a recent flight due to a shockingly long security line and getting stuck overnight in Chicago, and with a flurry of flying coming up, I decided last week to give Clear’s $89 six-month signup a try. It was a pretty simple economic decision, notwithstanding with my cleanroom-grade cleanliness and very rare last name which gives me +20 protection from getting confused with a similarly-named evildoer.

    Got my irises scanned last Wednesday on the way to Denver. Got my “Approved!” email this evening at 7:40. Got the “Ceased operations” email 153 minutes later at 10:13. So I guess no one there saw it coming? Think I’ll get my money back?

  20. I actually was flying today and overheard a TSA guy tell 2 passengers that the program was discontinued at denver at 4pm MNT (they had arrived at 4:30 so missed being able to use it.)

    I laughed since they had to wait in the 1/2 hour long security line. (and then shook my fist at the first class bourgeoisie who got through in 5 minuets in their already separate line)

    but seriously, none of the security measures do much. they are just for show for about 5 of the hundreds of people waiting in line. get over it. there are more dangerous ways to cause problems in America that are being overlooked.

    1. Anyone who can do five minuets deserves to go to the head of the line, although they would almost certainly be bourgeois.

  21. @24with my … very rare last name which gives me +20 protection from getting confused with a similarly-named evildoer.

    Got my “Approved!” email this evening at 7:40.

    Here’s a thought that just occurred to me while reading these comments: what if you try to sign up and don’t get approved? That would be a pretty good clue that you’re on some kind of a list. And if you have a rare last name (I do also), you can be fairly sure it’s actually YOU on the list, and not just someone with a similar name.

  22. Good! This was the biggest piece-of-shit, elitist idea to come unapolgetically down the pike in ages. I always wondered how many of my favorite high-flying liberal talk show hosts were part of this program (with complimentary promo passes, of course). Now I have to wonder no more. R.I.P.

  23. Good riddance. I remember when I first saw an ad for Clear (on Boing Boing of all places) I assumed it *had* to be a parody by the Yes Men or something. I now look forward to former Clear card holders being immediately behind large slow-moving families like the rest of us. I hope they complain about how they used to be Clear members, so I can point at them and laugh.

  24. Lol, from “innocent until proven guilty” to “Guilty unless we say so and provide proof of it”.
    The laaaand of the freeeeee …..

  25. I used to work for Brill at American Lawyer Media as an editor. This is classic Brill: an almost-elite idea that appeals to snobs and the nouveau riche while the truly wealth have already moved on. First class is so passe, you still have to pass the security checkpoints and breathe the same air as the hoi polloi. Charter a jet, invite some friends or bring along your posse and it’s only a little more expensive than first class, and you can avoid all those little annoyances.

  26. To #29. I can’t imagine why you or your “large slow-moving families” would have such disdain for someone who travels frequently and would pay to have the option of going through a faster lane. It’s not like it’s a country club membership that is exclusive. Anyone could join as long as they passed the requirements. Would you same the same thing to people who have EZ Passes in their cars to go through the fast lanes at toll booths? I also have one of those in my car. As a frequent traveler, generally 2 roundtrips a week, I used my Clear card quite often where I could and the frequent traveler lanes if available where Clear was not. As an idea, it made great sense. Unfortunately, it did not make fiscal sense. I hope something like this will come back soon or Clear regains it’s credit. Unlikely, but hopefully.

  27. Come on folks.

    Clear members weren’t “Elitists” using the cards for some kind of ‘status’ to “wave over the rest of us”– they were simply paying more money for a card to enable a promise of a faster travel experience.

    Business travellers appreciate the time value of money. And business travellers are the ones who really suppoort what’s left of the airline industry, and are the driving force of the American economy.

    Penalizing the business traveller only hurts the rest of us.

  28. Setting aside the “business travellers are the driving force of the American economy” bollocks, the thing that always bugged me about Clear is that it just smacked of one buying their way out of the stooopid security theater that’s being foisted on the rest of us. And that just seemed inherently unfair to me on an admittedly emotional level. At least now we’re all in the airport security thing together again. And now that the former Clear member titans of industry are back in the cattle pens with the rest of us, maybe they’ll add their voices to the rest of us who believe that the post 9/11 airport security procedures are doing little or nothing to make any of us any safer, and it’s time to dial things back to a more rational security view, saving ALL of us time and money.

  29. I was a member for 2 years. I travel every week via San Jose Airport. Wait times there have improved a bit over the past year but prior to that, the wait was horrid, esp during the evening rush. My airline of necessity (southwest) had no vip lane until recently. The security theater wait was typically 30 to 45 minutes and having the clear card allowed me to work those extra minutes every week rather then spend them in line. At a cost of $2 a week, this was an easy purchase. My employere was happy about their return on investment.

    I did not renew when the lines got shorter (securlty capacity was increased via 2 extra x-ray machines and many travelers learned the drill)and SW added a VIP lane.

  30. I’m glad this bullshit service is finally gone. The idea that some people should be able to pay to circumvent security measures we have all been told are necessary while the rest of us poor bastards stand around in our socks was ridiculous and pissed me off every time I saw it.

    Fuck whatever private company was running this horrible scheme, fuck the TSA, and especially fuck the administrative bureaucrats that allowed a private company to profit from their retarded, useless regulations.

    Good riddance.

  31. How is it circumventing the security process when the members were all pre-screened including iris scan and fingerprints?
    I was a clear member and I fly for business out of DIA which has very long wait times. It was a great time saver for me and I will miss the service.

  32. re #37, because the fact that you passed a security check in the past is absolutely no guarantee that you won’t do an act of terrorism in the future.

    If the security bollocks that non-Clear travelers go through every single time they fly is really necessary, (which of course it isn’t, and that really kind of the big point) than it’s necessary for EVERYONE.

  33. oh for the gods sakes already, someone blow up a shopping mall or amusement park already and get the morons off their airport kick. What? What’s that you say? “They already would have done that if “they” were real”? You mean… you mean it’s all a LIE?!

  34. Clear is back in business. They are providing alternative services for the airports that are starting to opt out of TSA security. Orlando is the first, Denver is coming online this month.

    Orlando Airport kicks out the TSA:

    Clear is Back:

    And just for good measure, an article about all the cr*ap that gets through, and how ineffective, humiliating, and expensive the TSA really is:

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