Steven Brill talks about Registered Traveler's past and its future.
In February, Verified Identity Pass Inc. reached a significant milestone — the 100,000th enrollee in Clear, its Registered Traveler airport security fast lane program. For STEVEN BRILL, founder and CEO of the company, reaching that point has been gratifying, considering how long it has taken for RT to roll out since a U.S. government pilot program was completed in 2005. Brill took time out from his New York office to talk about the present and future prospects for Registered Traveler.
& Incentives: With 17 airports online and Atlanta apparently ready to join up, has Registered Traveler reached critical mass?
Brill: We're about eight or nine months behind where I thought we would be. But once momentum starts to build, everyone wants to get in on the program. I think that a year from now, most airports will at least be considering Registered Traveler, and two years from now, you'll be hard-pressed to find a major airport that won't have a program.
CMI: I read an interview in which you said you had dissuaded a large Boston-based company from enrolling in your RT program because that city's airport wasn't as close to signing on as had been publicized. Has the slow pace of RT adoption hurt efforts to attract the corporate market?
Brill: It's definitely a lot easier to have that conversation with corporations now. And with agreements with companies such as MasterCard and American Express [that give card members an incentive to enroll], we're achieving a kind of critical mass. We also have two very mobile enrollment stations that have been very busy visiting law firms, investment banks, and other clients in Denver, the Bay area, and New York.
CMI: Can you talk a little about your agreement with AirTran Airways and what that means for the relationship between RT and the airlines going forward?
Brill: The agreement with AirTran [which is sponsoring lanes at New York's LaGuardia Airport] is the same kind of agreement that we have with Air France, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. If an airline is operating at an airport terminal, they can sponsor Registered Traveler lanes at that terminal.
AirTran is the first domestic airline to break ranks. It seems that the airlines have moved from opposition to RT to a more neutral stance. We're negotiatng with about six different airlines as we speak.
CMI: What's the latest on the situation regarding RT technology?
Brill: We're offering a $500,000 innovation prize for faster airport security technology, and there's a ton of interest in that. As for the shoe scanner technology [being developed by General Electric to allow passengers to keep their shoes on in security lines], we've been told that it's going back to the TSA lab for a final round of testing. It remains a frustrating process, but it's up to TSA to make that final decision.
CMI: Speaking of TSA, in testimony before Congress last summer, you criticized it for what you considered to be a lack of enthusiasm for RT. Has anything changed?
Brill: The landscape has changed quite a bit since then. TSA has become much more cooperative and encouraging of late. I think part of it has been the explosion in business since last summer, so it's pretty clear that RT is working.
CMI: What do you see as the prospects for an international RT program?
Brill: Congress is pushing for it, and we're going to work on implementing it, but there are aspects that are complicated. In the next year or so, you could see us operating programs in countries in which domestic programs are in place. For example, you could have someone in Canada screened and vetted by the Canadian government in a process that would be recognized by the U.S. government so that the programs would be integrated.
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