Some pan new shoe scanners at airport
Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
ORLANDO — New airport screening technology debuting Tuesday was supposed to let passengers keep their footwear on while passing through security. After its debut, travelers were still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Several travelers complained they had to kick loafers or heels off anyway, even after standing in a kiosk that reads their biometric information and uses radio waves to test for explosives and metal. The scanners are part of a new program at Orlando International Airport that promises shorter screening lines for those who pass a federal background check and pay a $100 annual fee.
"That was a bit disappointing. I thought all the hype was that this was going to let you keep your shoes on," said Clay Breazeale, a 52-year-old Orlando salesman who flies about twice a week. "The machine simply detected this little piece of metal, so I had to take my shoes off."
The Clear program is operated by Verified Identity Pass Inc., a New York City-based company headed by Court TV founder Steven Brill. It debuted in Orlando in June 2005 as a pilot, and has since drawn 30,000 customers. Participants have long been able to bypass regular security lines, but Tuesday was the initial rollout of the shoe scanners.
Shawn Dagg, Verified Identity Pass senior vice president, said the Transportation Security Agency has approved the shoe scanners, but they have limited functions. The agency has not signed off on the devices' ability to determine the difference between safe and unsafe metals, he said. Until that happens, all shoes that show metal must be removed for additional screening.
"Being a predominantly business traveler lane, most people are wearing dress shoes" with metal supports, Dagg said.
He said Clear hopes customers will get that message and start wearing shoes that don't have metal.
TSA spokesman Christopher White said the agency is "not currently studying the machines' ability to differentiate between prohibited and nonprohibited items."
The shoe machine debut coincided with Clear's expansion Tuesday to a British Airways terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The company plans to launch another outpost this week at the Indianapolis airport, and two more next week at the San Jose and Cincinnati airports. Verified hopes to expand the Orlando program to 20 airports by the end of the year.
TSA must vet all Clear passengers before they can enroll in the program. As with the program in general, the shoe scanners will not be broadly used until they receive further TSA approval. However, Clear customers at other airports will still be able to use special security lanes with their biometric identification cards.
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