Life in the fast lane: What to buy the airport traveler who has everything

Everybody's always complaining about the lengthy wait through security at airports -- but some entrepreneurs have finally gone out and done something about it.

There's Verified Identity Pass, which has been around since 2005, and the FLO card, which just came out last year.

The idea is that if you sign up for a pass or a card, you can go to the head of the security line at the airport. You still have to check your things, but it will be moments, not minutes, before you're on the other side, browsing in the airport bookstore.The first was created by the prominent entrepreneur Stephen Brill (he created Court TV and the magazine American Lawyer, as well as the now defunct Brill's Content), and the second by underdog businessman Glenn Argenbright. They're both part of the new registered travel industry. And I call Argenbright the underdog because FLO, which stands for Fast Lane Option, has 5,000 members while the Verified Identity Pass has 175,000. The Verified Identity Pass has kiosks in airports to capture potential customers. The FLO card has more of a guerrilla marketing take on all of this from what I can tell, but certainly it's working. They've been partnering with a couple meeting management companies, like Advantage Performance Network and Universal Meeting Management Inc., and The Washington Post mentioned FLO in an article a few weeks ago.

With Verified Identity Pass, you pay $128 a year for the privilege of cutting past everyone in line, and the same pass reportedly can or will eventually get you at the head of the line at some office buildings and sporting venues with tight security. With the FLO card, it's $100 a year, or $200, if you want the platinum version. Each of the $100 and $200 memberships come with a slew of benefits, in the way that a corporate frequent-flier program operates. For instance, with the $200 a year membership, you get extras like emergency cash transfer assistance and concierge help with golf reservations.

Of course, there is a catch. It takes a little more than mere money to get either the pass or the card. You have to be willing to first submit background information in order for the Transportation Security Administration to do a security assessment, and you have to be willing to give them a fingerprint or an iris scan, so they can create your secure identity credential.

Still, for honest travelers with at least $100 to spare, they both sound like a pretty nice deal. So far, there are almost two dozen airports that both FLO and Verified are accepted at, with more to come. If you look at each map of airports on the web sites, the numbers don't match up, but according to a FLO spokesperson, wherever you'll find one, you'll find the other. Some of the airports that you can use the pass or card at include Denver, Cincinnati, Orlando and the Reagan airport. Atlanta and Los Angeles will be added soon.

I'm hoping that, meanwhile, entrepreneurs don't forget about the folks who do have to wait in line because they either don't have the extra money or can't justify the expense because they don't travel enough. I'll bet an entrepreneur selling hot dogs or soda to the rest of us could make a killing, servicing the hundreds of people waiting in line to take their shoes off and have their personal belongings in their carry-ons sifted through.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).

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