Biometric screening offers line-skipping at MSP Airport

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For $179 per year, you can sign up for biometric identity verification, like a retinal scan or finger swipe, to skip the long security checkpoint lines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The service, run by a private contractor called CLEAR, allows travelers to skip the lines and go straight to the metal detector.

CLEAR is currently available at about 20 airports around the country. Here's how it works:

CLEAR members match up their government IDs to their biometric profile -- either an eye scan or fingerprints. When a traveler comes through the airport, CLEAR allows them to quickly verify their identity and head right through a designated lane to the screening process.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission entered into a 2-year agreement with CLEAR allowing the company to provide its services at MSP. CLEAR will pay MAC 10 percent of its gross revenues from traveler fees, or a minimum of $150,000 per year.

The company boats that CLEAR is certified as a “qualified anti-terrorism technology” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

According to airport spokesman Pat Hogan, the Department of Homeland Security requires airports that offer privatized identity verification services such as CLEAR to conduct audits of the program at the airport. MSP Airport expects most of its proceeds from the CLEAR deal to go toward offsetting costs related to having the service.

“From our standpoint, CLEAR is likely to be less of a moneymaker for the airport than a customer service for travelers,” Hogan said.

CLEAR can be used in conjunction with TSA PreCheck, the government program that charges $85 for 5 years for access to special lanes. PreCheck travelers still must have an agent check their ID, but CLEAR would allow them to skip that step.