Albany Considers Joining Clear Traveler

COLONIE, N.Y. - The Albany County Airport Authority board will be asked to approve a contract at its meeting Monday night that would open the way for a program designed to speed frequent fliers through security for a fee.

The airport was one of 20 nationwide chosen for a pilot project to register travelers who would get faster processing at security checkpoints in return for undergoing a background check and submitting to fingerprinting and iris scans.

They also would pay a $99 annual fee.

The Airport Authority, which operates Albany International Airport, has drawn up a contract with New York City-based Verified Identity Pass Inc. to operate its Clear Registered Traveler program in Albany. Under the contract, passengers registered with Clear or another registered-traveler provider would use one of the five lanes at the airport.

The contract would provide the Airport Authority with an estimated $150,000 a year in revenue, said airport CEO John O'Donnell. Clear was also chosen over a rival program because it already operates at several airports, including Orlando, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, San Jose and at Terminal 7 at New York's Kennedy International, while the rival program doesn't yet have any registered traveler lanes operating.

O'Donnell said Clear would invest about $2 million in state-of-the-art equipment that would help screen travelers.

Paul Varville, security director for the Transportation Security Administration at Albany, said travelers would insert a card carrying biometric information into a kiosk at the beginning of the line and offer a finger or eye for scanning.

Once their identity was confirmed, they'd proceed through the line, which would include a shoe scanner and other advanced equipment.

At some point, as the equipment is refined, passengers could leave shoes on and laptops in their bag, O'Donnell said.

Varville said the program has other advantages. "From the TSA's perspective, we know who they are. They've already undergone a background check," he said.

Still, it's only a pilot program, and it's not clear whether it might eventually be rolled out to all the nation's airports.

Clear spokeswoman Cindy Rosenthal said "more than 45,000" people have registered nationwide so far. Other airports, from Little Rock and San Francisco to Reagan and Dulles in metropolitan Washington, D.C., are seeking to launch registered traveler programs, she said.

While Chicago's O'Hare hasn't yet begun the steps to launch a program, "there's a lot of interest," Rosenthal said during a phone conversation from O'Hare.

O'Donnell said the airports that have launched the program told him they would do it again, and that business travelers have welcomed the convenience.

He said it will be 90 days, or possibly longer, before the registered traveler lane is operating at Albany International Airport. The lane will be used by all travelers when registered travelers aren't going through it, he added.

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