Monday, March 03, 2008

Yes, we now charge for everything

While flying out of Denver a few days ago, I noticed a curious new service. It's called Clear. From their website:

Clear® is the fast pass for airport security. Clear members are pre-screened and provided with a high-tech card which allows them to access designated airport security fast lanes nationwide. Clear members pass through airport security faster, with more predictability and less hassle.

Clear's first year price is $100 plus the TSA vetting fee of $28 for a total charge of $128.

What is brilliant about this service, is that it pretends to be about safety. But really, it's nothing more than a VIP pass for people who are willing to pay more to skip the waiting in line.

Am I the only one who doesn't think this is fair? I understand the economics behind variable pricing, and how it can be used to maximize profits. But can't we draw the line somewhere? Everyone at the airport already paid different prices for their tickets.

Is it fair to ever charge for reordering privileges?
  • Imagine watching people move in front of you while waiting in line at the restroom?
  • Imagine people skipping to the front of the taxi queue?
  • Waiting for the next ride on the ferris wheel? Sorry, that guy paid more.
Unless I'm mistaken, it doesn't seem like they are getting a different service, just a paid shortcut to the same service. It would make all the difference in the world if you could just present your card and walk right on through without having to:
  • have your ID pic matched to your face
  • have your ID name matched to the name on your ticket
  • remove your shoes
  • remove your belt
  • remove your laptop from your bag
  • remove your jacket
  • drink the remaining water in your Nalgene
  • walk through a metal detector
  • have your pass checked again
  • and put everything back together

PS. It's true. You do have to go through all the same loops with Clear, it's just that you get the extra feeling of superiority over all those schmucks waiting in line like everyone else...

From their site:

The Clear lane is a designated lane at the security checkpoint. Clear Members must verify a fingerprint or iris image (collected during enrollment) in order to enter the lane.
At the Clear lane, a Clear attendant will greet you and check your boarding pass, Clear card and government-issued photo ID. You will be asked to insert your Clear card into the kiosk, which also verifies the fingerprint or iris image that you selected during enrollment. When everything is verified (which takes just a few seconds), you will receive a receipt indicating that you are a Clear member.

Clear members still proceed through metal detectors and x-ray machines operated and regulated by the Department of Homeland Security but other parts of the process are expedited. When you approach the lane, our attendants will help you with the bins and to get ready to go through the checkpoint. This alone helps our lane speed by as much as 30%!

This is too much. Honestly.

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