LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

CLEAR biometric security screening debuts at Newark Airport

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Frequent fliers eager to find a fast lane through backlogged security check-in lines queued up at kiosks at Newark Airport’s Terminal C to enroll with CLEAR, a biometric system that transforms you into your own human security pass by scanning eyes and fingerprints.

“Anything that gets me onto the airplane faster I’m going to be interested in, and this just seemed like a great tool,” said enrollee Tony Molloy.

Already in place at 31 airports across America, including JFK and LaGuardia, CLEAR debuted at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday, partnering with United Airlines. Eleven check-in pods have been established at Terminal C, where enrolled passengers can verify their identify with a finger tap or a glance at a sensor. A CLEAR ambassador then validates the boarding pass and walks the passengers over to TSA, where they continue on through to the physical screening.

The pass costs $179 a year, although United says it is offering a discount to members of its mileage club.

Some passengers said CLEAR is faster than TSA PreCheck, which costs $85 for five years. CLEAR pass holders also need TSA Precheck to avoid having to remove their shoes during the physical screening.

CLEAR’s enrollment process averages five to 10 minutes. Passengers step up to the kiosk, guided by a CLEAR assistant, and stare into a camera that scans the iris, a unique feature for every person. Then they press each hand and both thumbs into another electronic recorder, where other scans are taken.

The individual biometric data gets added to an encrypted file along with regular ID documents, and a real-time background check is run. All that becomes your CLEAR biometric pass.

“We never sell or share any of the data. It’s always encrypted,” said Gina Bruzzichesi, executive vice president of operations for CLEAR. “And we are certified by Homeland Security to make sure that we are of the highest level of security.”

Flyers in Newark on Friday said the process was easy.

“All I did was look in the box and it scanned,” said Molloy. “Yeah, I didn’t feel anything.”

Rich Friedman of New York City had the same impression. “They had to put some cream on my fingers to get my fingerprints done. And the iris scan was easy — just look into the camera,” he said.

A representative of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said the CLEAR pass was a welcome addition to the aging airport, which moves 46 million passengers a year.

“This innovative approach to getting passenger processing improved is aligned directly with the Port Authority’s mission of providing a high level of service to our passengers in infrastructure that was built years and years ago,” said Sarah McKeon, deputy general manager of the bi-state agency. “And we’re struggling to keep up with the passenger demands of today.”

A free version of CLEAR can also be used at 19 stadiums and arenas, including Yankee Stadium, CitiField and Madison Square Garden. It’s also at 14 Hertz Fast Lane car rentals.

The company claims its biometric approach can shave a half-an-hour off pre-flight check-in.

CLEAR’s Newark debut came on the same day that flyers reported long security lines in the early morning, evidently the result of flights that were canceled due to stormy weather Thursday night.