By RICHARD N. VELOTTA
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Developers of a new biometric scanning system that verifies passenger identities at airports are the first to admit that some customers like the idea of having their irises scanned because it looks so cool.
But the biggest advantage of the Clear biometric scanning system, now operating at McCarran International Airport, is the speed of getting through airport checkpoint lines. Company operators demonstrating the system at McCarran on Tuesday said most people can clear the security line within five minutes.
McCarran became the 10th U.S. airport to welcome Clear and its biometric scanning kiosks. Units are located near the Terminal 3 checkpoint and the checkpoints at the C and D gates and the C gate annex in Terminal 1. McCarran and the company are working toward the installation of machines in the A and B gate area.
“We’re always looking for ways to enhance the travel experience at McCarran and we had heard from the local business community about wanting Clear to be here,” said Rosemary Vassiliadis, director of the Clark County Aviation Department, which operates McCarran.
The basic annual subscription fee for Clear is $179, but there are various discounts that can reduce the cost to $129 a year. Members can add family members for $50 a year each, and children under 18 are free.
Clear works differently at various airports, but at McCarran a Clear customer inserts a card into a kiosk, scans a paper or mobile boarding pass then gets the biometric scan, either a fingerprint on a pad or that cool-looking iris scan. That process verifies the identity of the passenger, who is directed to a separate expedited lane for known travelers.
Clear employees are on hand to assist with the process.
Prospective customers can set up a Clear account at an airport kiosk or Clear’s McCarran office or start the process online. Customers must have two forms of identification, generally a passport and a driver’s license, to set up an account.
Charmaine Taylor, vice president of operations for New York-based Clear, said 45 Clear “ambassadors” have been hired to assist customers in Las Vegas.
Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak was among the local officials welcoming Clear to McCarran and he was enthused about the jobs the new company brings to the community.
“Economic diversification isn’t always about big companies that move to town with thousands of jobs, but if you can get several companies with 30, 40 or 50 jobs each,” Sisolak said.
Earlier this year, Clear signed a five-year $2.6 million renewable lease agreement with Clark County for airport space plus variable revenue sharing of up to $250,000 based on the number of customers who use the system at the airport.
Taylor said Clear works in tandem with the Transportation Security Administration and its Pre-Check system and frequent travelers can benefit from both systems since they are operated differently at various airports. For example, at San Antonio International Airport, Clear customers have a dedicated security lane for themselves. At McCarran, TSA officials direct Clear customers to the best available lane.
In addition to McCarran, Clear is available at airports in San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.; Denver; Orlando; San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston’s Hobby International and Bush Intercontinental airports; and at Westchester County, N.Y.
The company is targeting a startup at Miami International Airport next.