Expedited airport-security service shuts down

Clear nabbed more than 260,000 subscribers at $199 apiece, but couldn't pay its way to profitability and has shut down, making this traveler sad to see the airport again.

Despite pulling in 260,000 travelers at $199 each, Clear's expedited security-clearance program in 18 airports has shut down.

Verified Identity Pass, which operates the Clear service, said via e-mail and on its Web site that it was "unable to negotiate an agreement with its senior creditor to continue operations." The Clear service was suspended at all 18 airports as of 11 a.m. PDT Monday.

The message to Clear subscribers like myself: "Get back in line."

Ironically, Clear was apparently charging Clear subscribers' credit cards right up until the announcement, as revealed by the commenters to a Los Angeles Times' article on Clear's closure. I guess the company needs every little bit as it heads to bankruptcy proceedings.

Sigh.

Despite signing up for Clear almost from its inception, at first I wasn't a big advocate of the service (though CNET's Dave Rosenberg was ). At my home airport in Salt Lake City, the difference between Delta's Medallion line and Clear's security lane was minimal.

But over the past few months, I've had more occasion to benefit from the service, and I can say that I will truly miss Clear. It has saved me from missing more than one flight. I want it back.

It would appear, however, that the cost of maintaining the service exceeds the roughly $52 million in subscription fees that Verified Identity Pass was able to bring in to support the Clear service. With costly biometric scanners and several Clear employees at each security station, it's not hard to see how the costs could add up.

Of course, Clear's various snafus and problems, as ZDNet's Jason Perlow writes, couldn't have helped.

Regardless, I doubt that many will appreciate Clear apparently renewing subscriptions right up until the moment the announcement of its closure. That's bad form. I understand the need to satisfy creditors. But in the age of blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, it seems like an ill-advised policy to charge for a service you're about to shutter .

Expect a backlash.

Clear's announcement via e-mail. Matt Asay

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.

About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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