Registered Traveler hit by closure of express lanes

Program's largest private operator abruptly shuts down operations

The largest private operator of Registered Traveler services at U.S. airports has abruptly shut down operations. The program was operated in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration.

Verified Identity Pass Inc. announced June 22 on its Web site that it was ceasing operations of its designated Registered Traveler lanes, effective immediately. It operated the “clear” designated lanes offering enrolled travelers expedited access to security processing at 18 airports.

Verified Identity Pass said it was offering no refunds because of the company’s financial condition. About 260,000 people had paid annual fees of $80 or more to enroll in the company's Clear program.

Registered Traveler, which has operated since 2005, is one of the Homeland Security Department’s largest public-private partnerships. The program is jointly operated by vendors and the Transportation Security Administration. Verified Identity Pass was by far the largest vendor in the program.

Enrollees in Registered Traveler undergo a vetting process, provide a fingerprint and receive a biometric identity card when they sign up. Once at the airport, the enrollee must verify his or her fingerprint to use the designated lanes and avoid long lines.

The program suffered a setback last year when TSA announced it was no longer performing the background security checks on Registered Traveler applicants. Also, in August 2008, Verified Identity Pass was required to briefly suspend enrollments after the theft of a laptop containing sensitive personal information.

TSA officials declined to comment on the Verified Identity Pass closure.

However, legislation passed by the House of Representatives on June 4 would reauthorize the TSA and would strengthen TSA’s role in the Registered Traveler program. Under a provision in the bill, TSA would be required to consider how Registered Traveler can be integrated into "risk-based aviation security operations," according to the National Business Travel Association. TSA also must reinstate security threat assessments and background checks for Registered Traveler participants and review screening protocols under the bill.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

Reader Comments

Tue, Jun 30, 2009 Craig Yarbrough Dallas, TX

I am absolutely astonished that Clear is gone!!! I do have to agree with the previous comment about the Clear Lanes being overstaffed but the service was always great, friendly and fast.

On June 3, 2009 I received an offer from the Clear Registered Traveler customer service office offering a $30 Brooks Brothers Gift Certificate if I purchased my Dad a Clear Membership for Fathers Day. Although I did not do it, as a previously very satisfied Clear Registered Traveler, I gave it serious consideration. Two years ago, I prepaid my Clear membership through 2010.

Two things really irritate me about the manner in which Clear ceased operations: 1) Their largest and most valuable asset – very satisfied customers like me – were never notified of the financial situation of Clear’s parent company Verified Identity Pass, Inc. and 2) Clear was selling new memberships all the way up to the day they closed down. I spoke with a TSA agent at the Atlanta Airport who told me of a poor guy that shelled out money for a Clear membership the day before the shutdown and was summarily told by Clear there would be no refund.

Clear, if you read this, you guys should have had faith in your clients and allowed us to assist you in your efforts to reorganize. I, for one, know of several measures I could have taken to assist you. Never underestimate the political and financial power of 260,000 motivated travelers. It’s really too bad that, under the circumstances, that power may now be turned against you.

Tue, Jun 30, 2009 Gene Vogt DC/VA/FL/Costa Rica

For the frequent traveler, the Clear system was a good investment. Over the past two years, as a customer, the service was always good, although two things concerned me. One, the customers were usually outnumbered by the employees - never a good fee for service model. Two, on several occaisons, especially during new Airport Clear operations, it was apparent that TSA employees had not been trained on what Clear was and how the Clear lanes worked.

The Registered Traveler program needs a suffiecent client base to pay its way. Those who travel frequently should pay a reasonable amount for this service - but it must be run with reasonable costs and management to make a profit. DHS, TSA and the public do also benefit by a Registered Traveler fast lane as well if enough frequent travelers pass through a faster process with increased security.

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