United States

California Bill Targets Airport Line-Skipping Service Clear, Pushing For Fairness In Airport Security

California lawmakers are introducing a bill targeting Clear, a company offering biometric verification for airport security lines, highlighting the tension between convenience, perceived unfairness, and federal regulations.

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California lawmakers are wading into the heated debate over airport security lines with a bill targeting Clear, a company offering expedited screening through biometric verification for an annual fee. The proposed legislation highlights the growing tension between convenience, perceived unfairness, and the complexities of federal regulations.

Disparity in the waiting game

The crux of the issue lies in the perception that Clear creates a two-tiered system.  For $189 a year, members bypass the often-lengthy security lines using facial scans or fingerprints.  This convenience comes at a cost for non-members who wait in standard lines, fueling frustration and a sense of inequity.  

Sen. Josh Newman, the bill's sponsor, argues that security screening shouldn't be a privilege reserved for those who can afford it. He emphasizes that "tax dollars fund airport security services in the first place," suggesting a disconnect when some travelers pay extra to jump the queue funded by everyone.

Interestingly, the bill doesn't propose an outright ban on Clear. Instead, it seeks a more nuanced approach.  Lawmakers envision Clear and similar services operating separate security lines, ensuring a smoother experience for both Clear members and regular passengers. This eliminates the resentment of seeing others cut in line while fostering a sense of fairness.

Ripple effects: Airports, Airlines, & beyond

The proposed legislation isn't without its opponents. Clear, unsurprisingly, argues against the bill, highlighting its job creation in California and contributions to airport revenue through leasing agreements. Major airlines and business groups have also voiced their disapproval.

One of the biggest hurdles the bill faces lies with the  Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The ability to create dedicated security lines hinges on TSA cooperation, a federal agency outside the direct control of California lawmakers.  Increasing TSA staffing requires congressional approval, adding a layer of complexity to the solution.

However, the legislative analysis suggests a silver lining.  Clear might be able to leverage its influence to lobby Congress for additional funding for TSA security lanes and agents. This could create a win-win scenario, with Clear retaining its service for paying members, while alleviating the burden on standard security lines for everyone else.