America's airport security checkpoints just lost some express lanes.
Late last night, Verified Identity Pass shut down its Clear program, a post-9/11 operation that promised to briskly shuttle rich people through security checkpoints in exchange for a yearly fee. Founded by Steven Brill - he of the short-lived navel-gazing pub Brill's Content - Verified said yesterday that it was unable to negotiate an agreement with its senior creditor to continue operations.
"Clear Lanes Are No Longer Available," reads a post to the Clear website.
If you paid Clear's $200 yearly fee, you won't get your money back - at least, not for the moment. "At the present time, because of its financial condition, Verified Identity Pass, Inc. cannot issue refunds," the company said.
But Verified has vowed to protect - and eventually destroy - all that personal info you gave the company. "Applicant and Member data is currently secured in accordance with the Transportation Security Administration’s Security, Privacy and Compliance Standards. Verified Identity Pass, Inc. will continue to secure such information and will take appropriate steps to delete the information."
According to USA Today, more than 250,000 people had joined the Clear program.
In an effort to speed air travel in the wake of the 9/11 attacks - when increased security measures resulted in longer, slower checkpoint lines - the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) developed what it originally called a "trusted traveler" program that would allow companies like Verified to setup express lines at about 20 of the nation's airports. Clear moved into most those airports, but the TSA never actually got around to trusting travelers, forcing program members to undergo full security screenings just like anyone else.
The TSA's operation was eventually dubbed Registered Traveler. Clear gave its members background checks, but in the end that got them little more than their own security line and some people to help move their luggage through the checkpoint - which they might have had anyway through airline frequent-flier programs.
The largest Registered Traveler program now belongs to FloCard. And FloCard isn't sure what to say about Clear's demise. "Flo is currently working with other participants in the industry as well as the Transportation Security Administration to analyze the implications of this announcement and to formulate a plan for the advancement of the program," reads a statement from the company. "We have no additional comment at this time but would expect to release further information pending a public statement from the TSA."
Steven Brill told USA Today he was surprised that Verified wasn't able to reach an agreement with its creditors. But given the state of the economy - and the questionable value of Clear's program - surprise isn't a word we'd use. ®