California lawmakers are considering regulations for Clear, a service that lets travelers skip airport security lines by paying a fee. The proposed changes tackle concerns about fairness and equality in accessing airport security.

For an annual fee of $189, Clear, a publicly traded security firm, provides its members with speedy access through airport security, among other locations. Members use biometric data like facial scans or fingerprints to verify their identity at airport kiosks, sidestepping the need to show identification to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents. Once verified, company staff ushered Clear members straight to the front of TSA security lines.

However, some California legislators argue that Clear’s services create disparities among travelers based on their financial means. The debate surrounding Clear revolves mainly around the issue of line-skipping, which has left some travelers feeling frustrated or marginalized. Critics argue that the program unfairly benefits those who can afford the membership fee while others wait in TSA security lines. Senator Josh Newman, a Democrat, voiced concern about the unequal access to airport security, emphasizing that when it comes to navigating airport security, everyone should have the same experience regardless of their income or willingness to pay.

In response to these concerns, Senator Newman proposed a moratorium on Clear’s expansion at California airports. The bill suggests requiring separate security lines for Clear members and general passengers to prevent members from bypassing others in TSA lines. Additionally, the bill aims to prevent airports from entering new contracts with private companies like Clear if they use existing TSA security lines and screeners.

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While the bill addresses fairness and equality issues, it does not entirely abolish Clear’s services. Instead, it proposes measures to ensure all travelers have fair access to airport security checkpoints. The bill, if enacted, could lead to a more equitable airport experience for all. It has received support from various organizations, including the Association of Flight Attendants and a California branch of the American Federation of Government Employees representing TSA agents.

However, Clear and major airlines, California airports, and business groups oppose the bill. Clear’s concerns are not unfounded. The company argues that it has significantly contributed to California’s economy, creating jobs and generating revenue for state airports. Its mission is to collaborate with partners and government agencies to enhance rather than diminish checkpoint experiences for all travelers.

Despite opposition, the bill has cleared the Senate Transportation Committee and awaits consideration by the full California Senate and Assembly. If Governor Gavin Newsom approves and signs it into law, it would be pioneering, marking the first regulatory action of its kind in the United States concerning third-party airport security services.

Critics of the bill warn that airports could face financial consequences if Clear’s services are restricted, potentially resulting in revenue losses that need to be offset through other means. Additionally, challenges may arise in securing dedicated TSA security lines and screeners, as TSA is a federal agency beyond the state’s jurisdiction.

Proponents of the bill remain dedicated to addressing concerns about fairness and equality in accessing airport security. They believe implementing separate security lines for Clear members and general passengers is necessary to provide travelers with a fairer airport experience.