California lawmakers are considering a bill that would effectively ban Clear, a move that has sparked widespread debate. Clear, a popular service, allows travelers to bypass traditional TSA lines for a fee. The proposed legislation, spearheaded by State Senator Josh Newman, aims to level the playing field for air travelers. Additionally, it will ensure that access to expedited security screening doesn’t come at a premium.

Clear, known for its biometric verification system, enables customers to move quickly through airport security lines. This expedition happens after a swift identity check using fingerprints or eye scans. For approximately $189 a year, travelers enjoy the perks of shorter waits, a luxury that has become a point of contention among lawmakers and the public. 

The Issue with People Skipping Lines at Airports Paid for by the Public

So, Senator Newman has voiced his concerns about the unfairness of allowing a pay-for-priority system in taxpayer-funded airports. He argues that the service creates an elitist divide among travelers. Furthermore, it disrupts the principle of equal access to security processes. If passed, his bill would require third-party vendors like Clear to operate through a dedicated security lane, separate from the main TSA lines, starting January 1, 2025.

In an interview with CBS MoneyWatch, Newman said, “It’s a basic equity issue when you see people subscribed to a concierge service being escorted in front of people who have waited a long time to get to the front of TSA line. Everyone is beaten down by the travel experience. And, if Clear escorts a customer in front of you and tells TSA, ‘Sorry, I have someone better,’ it’s really frustrating.” 

Critics of the bill, including Clear itself and several major airlines, warn of the potential repercussions such a ban could have on air travel in California. They argue that eliminating Clear could lead to increased airfares and reduced efficiency at security checkpoints. Airlines have collectively highlighted how Clear’s operations have streamlined the screening process. They contend that such a process benefits all travelers by balancing queues and ensuring quick, secure identity checks.

The Future of Clear’s Verification Process 

Despite the backlash, the bill has found support among two major unions representing flight attendants and Northern California transportation security officers. These groups have raised concerns about the integrity of Clear’s verification process. They have also highlighted the need for equal access to security lines. The controversy around Clear’s presence in California airports highlights a broader discussion about the commodification of convenience and the implications for public services. 

While Newman’s bill does not explicitly prohibit Clear, it does seek to reshape how premium services interact with public infrastructure. Such a change will ensure that the benefits of efficiency do not come at the cost of equity. As lawmakers, companies, and the public grapple with these issues, the outcome will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications. Services like Clear will have to reevaluate how they fit into the fabric of air travel and public infrastructure.