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Card speeds up travel at Little Rock airport

Travelers at the Little Rock National Airport will soon be able to go to the head of the line when filing through security — if they're willing to pay.
Roger Perlsen of Verified Identity Pass' Clear program gets the irises of his eyes scanned at one of the company's enrollment centers in the lobby of Little Rock National Airport in Little Rock, Ark.
Roger Perlsen of Verified Identity Pass' Clear program gets the irises of his eyes scanned at one of the company's enrollment centers in the lobby of Little Rock National Airport in Little Rock, Ark.Danny Johnston / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Travelers at the Little Rock National Airport will soon be able to go to the head of the line when filing through security — if they're willing to pay.

New York-based Verified Identity Pass began enrolling travelers earlier this week in its Clear program, which provides a card they can use to get through the line faster.

For the privilege, cardholders must provide two forms of government identification, their fingerprints and iris prints, pass a federal security check and pay $99.95.

The fee is good for a year. But for federal, state and local government workers, it is good for 13 months.

Verified Identity Pass began its Clear program two years ago at the Orlando, Fla., airport and has been adding enrollment centers at airports around the country at a brisk pace.

The company has kiosks at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and airports in Albany, N.Y., Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Newark, N.J., and San Jose, Calif. Its cards also are recognized at the Reno, Nev., airport, where competitor Unisys operates a similar service.

Chairman and Chief Executive Steven Brill said the cards have cut the time in line at the Orlando airport by about 30 minutes. For the typical cardholders — business people and other frequent flyers — the time savings is more than just convenience.

Wednesday, Randy Wolf had heard of the program and made the trip to the Little Rock airport specifically to enroll on opening day. Wolf works in Little Rock for Balcones Fuel Technology but lives in Dallas.

"I travel 50 weeks out of the year and anything I can do to shave off the amount of time I can spend in an airport to me is personally and financially a plus," Wolf said.

While the time to get from the parking lot to an airplane in Little Rock sometimes takes only five minutes, he said, the process at other airports is painfully long.

"Places like Orlando can be a nightmare," Wolf said.

The Little Rock airport has about 1.3 million passengers a year who board planes, said airport executive director Deborah Schwartz. Verified Identity Pass has a concessionaire-type relationship with the airport and its service accommodates travelers without jeopardizing security, she said.

To obtain a card, applicants can begin the process online at the company's Web site. Next, they must bring two forms of government identification, including one with a photo, to a Clear enrollment center at an airport or major business that has a Clear kiosk.

At the enrollment center, applicants receive an account number and get their fingerprints and iris prints taken. The company sends the information to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which conducts the background check. If the applicant passes, the card arrives to them in the mail. The process takes two to four weeks.

At the airport, the cardholder still has to go through check in, baggage and security checks. But cardholders pass through a special lane operated by Clear employees who give them the OK to go to the front of the airport security line.