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 »

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  1. Contra these lawmakers, I wish there was a priority line everywhere. The grocery store. The DMV. The post office. Literally anywhere you have to wait in line, you should have a paid way to skip it.

  2. The irony here, at least for the several years I’ve been a CLEAR member, is that it hasn’t actually saved me any time. DCA, IAD, and DTW are my main airports. When the lines are long for TSA Pre-check, they tend to be long for CLEAR, too. And when the lines are short…they’re short for everyone.

    What’s more, CLEAR machines aren’t the most efficient – I’ve had to get my eyes scanned more than a few times on several occasions. Add to that the confusion of new CLEAR members, the ineptitude of some CLEAR staff, the lack of adequate staffing or scanners in airports where CLEAR operates and you have a classic boondoggle. This is especially true at IAD where the regular, non Pre-Check security lanes are almost always faster than TSA (simply due to sheer numbers, but that’s a different story).

    That said, if CLEAR has a business model that profits off people thinking they are important and unable to properly judge the length or speed of security lines, it isn’t the state’s responsibility to get involved. 🙂

  3. I have CLEAR and it seems like more and more I am waiting longer in line than the regular TSA Precheck line. I like the service and how it works but not sure it’s worth it, even with my AMEX credit.

  4. Can we ban FA’s and pilots pushing ahead in security too. I think thats unfair as well.

  5. I was traveling with a companion who didn’t have precheck, so was in the regular line at SFO. A Clear customer was escorted to the front for every other regular passenger. It was extremely annoying being cut in line at such frequency. It’s no problem if the ratio was something more reasonable like 1:10 or even 1:5. At a lower ratio, they should pay to have their own dedicated line. Like everything else, popularity driven by “free” credit card benefits has made it unsustainable.

  6. Why not have a law banning airlines in California? Force everyone to drive or take the bus to NY. Don’t let people pay to jump ahead by getting there faster by plane. Rich people must be punished!

    Disclosure: I do not have CLEAR

  7. >Poor People
    Pick one.

    Better to do like many places in Europe–Premium cabins and elite pax get dedicated lines. No more selling lane access to just anyone.

    To the comment regarding Pilots and FAs– Once again, in many European airports you don’t even see the flight crew in the airport. They usually have their own crew security and path tonthe aircraft.
    The US system is very cheap and anti-professional They put crew in the same halls and transport as passengers, which is an unprofessional look. You don’t see hundreds of crew milling around the airport in FRA or AMS.

  8. What a joke. By the same logic nobody with money should ever have access to something better or more convenient. Food, clothes, housing, cars, jewelry… if everyone can’t have it then nobody should.

    Sounds like a lovely world. Except of course the important people like politicians, influencers, media, weathly, elites etc would be exempt from such rules.

    It’s only the marginally successful people that need to be shown their place.

    Nobody ever tries to restrain the people with real power. It’s just the people with power squeezing what remains of the middle classes.

  9. This is absurd and beginning to look like a reality show on Bravo. Stir some c*@9 to make yourself relevant! Well, boys….I hope you fall (oh, did I say that out loud?) meant fail. And take Sara Nelson with you. Sheesh!

  10. This is the kind of government knows better than you do regulation that is slowly killing the State. The idea that someone has to sit down and sift through what can or cannot be done for this and that (CLEAR being a great example) just imposes additional costs on the whole. Death by paper cuts is a painful way to die and we are doing it to ourselves. There is a fantasy in California that regulatory costs do not matter and that the most sustainable path forward is a very high cost operating model. And then the same people imposing the regulations complain that “regular folks” can’t make it here anymore. It’s sad because it’s a wide waste of resources, driven by an ignorant ideology.

  11. “No One Should Go Through Security Faster”

    Does that include politicians and government officials? Wealthy celebrities?

  12. I’ve had the Clear staff push the Lind back at IAD and JFK. JFK even closes pre check at 8 PM.

    CLEAR is a paid service. It they want a dedicated process, they need to pay TSA costs for a CLEAR only line.

    I’ve had CLEAR in the past and never found it worthwhile.

  13. This does not go far enough. I think California should ban planes altogether (especially private planes). There are many people who can’t afford to fly, so no one should. Equity!

  14. I have CLEAR and use it, but I’ve always wondered why people were allowed to pay to jump the line. It’s okay to disagree with this legislation, but to call it “stupid” is itself stupid. Optics matter. Ask Marie Antoinette.

  15. What would one expect from communist California run by Gavin Newsom. He ran beautiful San Francisco into the ground.. Absolutely obliterated that city, now the state.

  16. I agree with DCFlyer that at IAD, the Clear line is often no faster than Pre – and I’ve seen it when it was slower. In fact, last week at IAD, a Clear employee came up to a bunch of us in the Clear line, which was wrapped around the back of the Clear machines, and said that the West Pre- lanes at the far end of the terminal had just opened and we would do better to go there (which I did – thank you, Clear employee!).

  17. I just dropped CLEAR after several years of use. Their scanners became so cr@ppy at recognizing me, my passport, and my fingerprints that I was always wasting time while they had to call a supervisor who tried to get their equipment functioning. Meanwhile, the people in the TSA-Pre lane (which I can also use) just kept passing by and were going through screening without problem. At some airports, such as Denver, the CLEAR lines are so long and slow that it’s crazy to even consider them. And yet, they are filled with passengers who think they are somehow saving time, or are unwilling to admit that they wasted their money. I have no problem with California—or anywhere else—banning clear for another reason: The terminals now are so congested that the CLEAR setups are interfering with the flow of traffic. They quite often extend right out into the main corridors and people have to detour around them rather than walk in a straight line. It’s stupid.

  18. “It becomes a haves vs. have nots where those who can afford it jump in front of the rest of us.”

    Anyone not owning their own jet is a have not!

  19. CLEAR should never be located near regular TSA lines. As it is, it looks like how corruption works in other countries where money is passed to an official to bypass everyone already there and waiting. Clear should pay all expenses related to the service they provide. TSA should then operated with the same number if agents as without CLEAR, allowing for faster checking due to not having to check those using clear.

  20. @ High class — Don’t get me started on grocery stores. There should be a credit/debit only lane at least

  21. CLEAR is ok with me, but allow them to push person after person in front of me in the precheck line is wrong.

  22. So typical from The People’s Republic of California: one failed idea after another.

    This is what happens when Democrats are in charge.

    Vote accordingly…

  23. They better close down that line for staff as well. They need to wait in that line like the rest of us. Gimme a break.

  24. This is nothing more than an election year waste of time. To say they are not opposed to a premium travel (outside of CLEAR) but not to CLEAR is not about haves and have nots, it is more about that have nots are getting in front of the haves politicians and they don’t like it so they pretend there helping others – term limits on politicians might be a better conversation than the fact that EVERYBODY can buy clear for less than 150$ a year – stop the silly pretend nonsense.

  25. I hope these idiots in Sacramento also are going to ban toll roads. Same logic. Toll Roads only help rich people drive faster. We need a purge.

  26. If Clear had their own lines, this wouldn’t be a problem. Clear charges a premium for a private service, and that means they shouldn’t half-ass it

  27. Next will be everyone should have same salary no matter what job is or job level is, then income is equal, everything is fair

  28. Another retrograde decision by so called “progressive “ politics. Joe Biden can say “I did this!”

  29. For once I am onboard with something California is proposing/doing. I totally resent forcing the TSA to cow tow to this group to allow a special group of passengers to butt in front of we TSA Pre customers who have paid for the expedited service! Another good reason to get rid of them is that this operation takes up valuable prime queuing floor space in the airports and forces security queuing into airport lobby areas better served for passenger traffic. Hopefully, this will catch on and shut down this operation for good.

  30. Of course, they pitch the ban on egalitarian principle. Clear is not the preserve of the rich, it is less than $200 per year. But, hey, when you cannot produce a balanced budget or build affordable housing for Californians and give free health insurance to illegal immigrants while running a $40 billion deficit, why not pitch something to take the public eye off of your dysfunctional government . Any wonder why the population of the Golden State continues to decline?

  31. @Thing 1 and @Derek: Quiet! Planes are known carbon emitters! California might just ban commercial flights–with an assist from a friendly White House!

    Seriously, does California have any authority over interstate travel?

  32. There’s a special United Global Services security shortcut at SFO as well, I guess this will have to
    go as well.

  33. What’s next in California? Banning cellphones and laptops because someone might gain a competitive edge??

  34. What the hell did I work so hard to get rich for, if not to push past the poors?

    What next, eliminate all FC, BC, Premium Economy and make everyone fly basic economy?

    How about no international flights because the poor can’t generally afford it.

    And no more Delta allowed in CA since they are a “premium” airline. Only Spirit and Jet Blue.

    Typical Ca.

  35. Of all the problems in that state, this is what they are focused on? You get what you vote for

  36. Doug: Not quite right that JFK pre-check closes at 8PM. Terminals 1 and 7 have it until midnight per the TSA website

  37. Jerry329

    I fly out of JFK international terminal at least international a year on flights that leave close to midnight.

    Not ONCE has the PreCheck line been available in that terminal after 8pm.

    We have to stand in the regular line but they do “graciously” allow us not to remove our shoes if we have PreCheck on our ticket.

    And a good number of flights leave in that time frame so the line is always slammed

  38. I don’t comment too often, but this one here.
    There are so many haves and have not opportunities at airports, and every other part of life in this country.
    How is it humanly possible that someone managed to sift through every haves and have not opportunity and fumble upon Clear…
    Please please please tackle some true haves and have not egalitarian issues because this is just simply not the one to start with. If anything, this is the last one that you should start with.

  39. Oh no! But how will we ever stand in the way longer, way slower CLEAR line with the far more rude, humanity hating CLEAR employees?

  40. Question

    I have PreCheck

    If I also get CLEAR and jump to the head of the line, can I then invoke my PreCheck and not remove shoes, etc?

  41. Forget the question. Found the answer.

    But anyone know why, even though I have PreCheck, JFK makes me take out my laptop each time?

  42. Wow! Well if that the case, i want one of those $1 Million dollar condos they are building for homeless!
    They cost $1M each along with all the other giveaways! the rest of us do not get in California, including free medical!!
    And people wonder why everyone wants to leave!
    A lot of Clear is actually paid for by companies for their employees to make their jobs less stressful during travel as they are also away from their homes all the time on the road!
    When will the California insanity Stop!!
    Everywhere here now They have added Fast track lanes paid for by the citizens here that require a payment to use them while others sit in traffic due to the cost! maybe they should look at that! but I bet the 2 senators have that and its paid by the government to use!!

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