California Moves To Ban CLEAR From Airports: No One Should Go Through Security Faster

A bipartisan California bill would ban CLEAR in the state’s airports. Sponsors view the service, which identifies passengers through their biometrics and escorts them to the front of security queues in exchange, as anti-egalitarian.

A pair of Orange County state senators from opposing parties — who frequently fly between their districts and Sacramento — are both boosting a first-in-the-nation proposal critics say would ban the expedited security screening company CLEAR from state airports.

“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,” Josh Newman, the Democratic lawmaker who authored the bill, told POLITICO. …“I do understand the frustration stated in Senator Newman’s bill,” Nguyen, who sits on the transportation committee, said in an email to POLITICO. “It becomes a haves vs. have nots where those who can afford it jump in front of the rest of us. They even cut in front of TSA Pre-boarding pass travelers who have been screened by the TSA.”

  • The bill still allows people to buy shorter security queuing through PreCheck and Global Entry. It just would outlaw skipping to the front of a line that isn’t dedicated for CLEAR members, so CLEAR would have to have its own dedicated TSA lanes. (While this exists in some places, TSA may not go along.)

  • CLEAR members tend to travel more than the median passenger, and therefore wait in security lines more than most people do not less. So this is only about optics – watching someone who gets to go in front of you.

  • But that’s been an issue even since long before PreCheck began, since airlines have controlled queues inside the terminal that lead up to the TSA and have offered ‘priority lanes’ for premium cabin passengers and elite frequent flyers. The bill sponsors even say they aren’t opposed to airport concierge services where passengers pay extra to be escorted through formalities quickly.

    American Airlines PreCheck and Premium Passenger Security Check-in Queues

This is just one more step in a long string of efforts that make business travel, and even leisure travel, more difficult for people coming to California and those traveling within the state. There’s a certain natural advantage that California has in weather and scenery that makes the cost of stupid policy sustainable. And talent clusters, such as Hollywood and Silicon Valley, have long meant that people would pay that tax – to be a part of and have proximity to those opportunity.

Most Airlines Oppose The Effort – American Airlines Noticeably Absent

Airlines make money from the terminal rent paid by CLEAR when they control the terminal, or they share in that rent in the form of distributions or lower landing fees when they don’t. In this case, they say $13 million per year is at stake for them – so Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska, Hawaiian, and JetBlue have released a letter of opposition noting that CLEAR is also something that their customers like, and that speeds overall processing through checkpoints (CLEAR has their own kiosks and staff checking identities).

American Airlines did not back the industry letter opposing the bill cracking down on CLEAR. Both Delta and United own a stake in CLEAR. American blocks CLEAR from setting up inside terminals that it controls. They suggested that CLEAR wasn’t a long-term solution to queues, which is fair, but backed new ANALogic machines which slow down security screening.

American Airlines, of course, offers expedited security – without having dedicated lanes which this bill would require – through Flagship Check-in.

Flagship Check-in, LAX

Premium Check-in, New York JFK Terminal 8

At LAX, for instance, Flagship first class, ConciergeKey, Platinum Pro members and above flying internationally, and equivalent partner airline status members even flying domestically get an escort to the front of the relevant security line (PreCheck or standard). But the bill only bans ‘third party vendors’ from doing this, not American Airlines!

And what about the Private Suite terminal at LAX? That has its own screening, so wealthy and celebrities will continue to have that experience. The authors of this bill are not serious.

The Big Flight Attendants Union Supports This

Flight attendants union AFA-CWA supports the bill, because Sara Nelson opposes anything that’s good. She says passengers should never press the call button unless it’s life and death. She sought a federal ban on inflight alcohol and sought to make leisure travel a prosecutable crime during the pandemic.

Expedited security for passengers, of course, provides greater security than that’s imposed on Ms. Nelson’s own members going through their own expedited Known Crewmember lanes.

The TSA employees union local representing Northern California screeners supports the bill, presumably since CLEAR represents a private alternative, and blasts the service as “luxury resale of upcharge of space in the airport security queue” – everyone should suffer at their hands equally.

LAX Tom Bradley Terminal Security

In this case I presume that Sara Nelson‘s support is simply more ideological than self-interested. Note, though, that while she did not pay for these photos her members very much did and also that she doesn’t know what a selfie is:

(HT: @crucker)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Sara Nelson is irrelevant just as the Orange County California political hangers-on are. Sorry guys, you’re on FAA’s turf.

  2. And this is why I will never fly or support American Airlines. Furthermore, it is an extremely false statement by Josh Newman to imply that only “the rich” use Clear. I am not rich nor anywhere near well off but I use clear because I am a frequent flier. I also have TSA and have gone through all the screenings. It sounds to me like entitlement due to his position.

  3. This is the problem with having a full time state legislature- they come up with a lot of stupid proposals.

    At some airports (eg SFO) this would not make much difference as precheck line is often faster than Clear.

  4. Of course California aka: the socialist republic of California would love this idea. God forbid anybody trying to be more productive and get ahead in life. What a bunch of idiots!

  5. I’d rather TSA precheck delivered as advertised 100% of the time so Clear wouldn’t be useful.

    The notion that this is for ‘the rich’ is hogwash – it’s the informed and curious who use Clear, many or most of which aren’t even paying directly.

    I find the setup to be awkward but pulling the ‘rich’ card is childish.

    It’s getting disproportionate visibility because Clear people are pulled right in front of the waiting TSA travelers vs having a separate checker.

  6. What a brilliant idea!!

    Next up, how about making it illegal to pass cars on the highway? That would be so much safer and everyone gets to where they want to at the same speed.

    Hmmm, maybe they should all drive the same type of car too?….

  7. “Equality through Mediocrity” has been the motto of the Left for ages and now also of the populist Right. Because righteousness matters more than facts and efficiency

  8. Clear should have its own TSA agent/line so those in the TSA Pre line don’t feel like a Clear person is cutting to the front of the line.

  9. If TSA’s ID screening created a bottleneck, which Clear could help alleviate, I’d be all for it. But the bottleneck is not the ID check—it’s the x-ray machine. Clear is just line cutting, with no benefit for overall screening efficiency. Ban it!

  10. 7 continuous years (and counting) of free clear membership. 12 to 40 trips (international & domestic) per year and so far only used “useless” clear membership only 1 time (international to domestic at SFO) due to ……. 8 lazy clear employees while TSA PreCheck lines had “0” waiting.

    It’s time to get rid of Clear.

  11. Hey dummies, why do you blame everything on the truly elected President? If you guys can find information on your own please do it. Just because Donald said it does not make it right or factual. Really.

  12. “You shall be issued your gray uni-sized jumpsuit upon drop off at the curb………”
    -Said O’Brien to Winston

  13. Well, this bin Laden era of oppressive security shouldn’t go on forever. At some point, a better way of getting safe people to the plane and weeding out the crazies has to be adopted.
    Also, it is frequently the case that human based security is understaffed. At customs and security, many stations sit empty through the busy day while only one of two are active to screen everyone. Poor.

  14. These politicians need to go. I am not rich and I have clear. If they have a problem then stop wasting money daily on coffee and budget your life better. Politicians are not here for us they just want power and control.

  15. What’s next, banning of Disney Genie+? The privileged should be able to bribe, I mean buy, their way to the front t of the line, right?

  16. Ok, makes sense. So, let’s do the same thing for the commuter Fastrak freeway lanes and open up all lanes to all commuters. Same concept, only those who can afford it can now jump ahead of you on the freeway. Isn’t that also anti-egalitarian?

  17. As a person richer than anyone here and who never misses the opportunity to buy up to a shorter line or faster service. I fully support this ban.

    If a private company is selling a faster alternative and paying the airport rent… they are incentivised against efficiency and from making any effort to keep the regular lines moving. The longer the lines get, the more people they can sell clear too.

    While you’re at it get rid of that water bottle ban that only exists to sell more $8 bottles.

  18. Welp, thank God I won’t be going there anytime soon. I’m PreCheck and have had several CLEAR people cut in front of me. I didn’t care because it wasn’t that deep…

  19. Well, these IDIOTS will soon say to get rid of FastTrak because the rich are using it to go faster on the freeway!

    Better yet, let’s make politicians LIABLE for the bad policies that they make, and hold THEM responsible for their STUPIDITY!

  20. Rich people living in big houses and poor people living in little houses is also non-egalitarian. Need to make a law specifying the max square footage per person allowed in any California house. It’s only fair.

  21. They should also ban TSA Precheck and Global entry. Why your shoes or belt is “More Secure” than my shoes or belt.

  22. Next thing you know, they’ll want to make it so that just because you can afford it, you can purchase seats with more leg room, or further in front, or in business or first class! Enough with letting people with more money getting better experiences! Treat everyone like cattle!
    Or, here’s a thought – instead of making life miserable for even the wealthy, do things to make it better for the poorer. Maybe double the number of TSA agents & scanners & x-ray machines. Make it so there’s not much advantage to using CLEAR.

  23. Or we could go back to pre 9/11/2001 screening since everything that has come after that is security theater and doesn’t do anything but create welfare jobs in federal government and condition passengers to be treated like they are entering a prison.

Comments are closed.