Now, however, Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Balram Bheodari told a city council committee meeting Wednesday that the crowds of passengers on the main level of the domestic terminal are “causing a safety concern.”
“The fire marshal, the law enforcement agencies are all concerned,” he said. “I am concerned about the congestion and the cross traffic that is going on in that area, especially right across from Delta — a very, very busy check-in counter” at Terminal South.
The airport now plans to close the line on the south side of the main checkpoint for Clear members going through standard security screening, effective at the end of the day July 26.
Clear will continue to have a line at the South checkpoint in the domestic terminal for its members who are also part of the TSA PreCheck expedited screening program .
But Clear members without PreCheck will be directed to the lower level North checkpoint. The Clear line there is still being tested over the next couple of weeks and isn’t yet open full time, according to the airport.
“We have been working with ATL over the past year on expanding Clear’s footprint to accommodate continued growth in passenger volume and demand for our service,” Clear said in a written statement. The company says it agreed to a pilot program for Clear at the lower North checkpoint but added: “We continue to work with our partners at the airport on options to maintain a Clear lane on the main floor for passengers without TSA PreCheck during construction.”
Bheodari said the airport screens as many as 30,000 passengers between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., the peak period for departing travelers. That’s an average of 10,000 an hour — or more than 166 passengers a minute.
The airport currently has four screening checkpoints for passengers at the domestic terminal. That includes the lower level North checkpoint, opened last year, that has been used for overflow during busy periods.
During peak periods, security wait times can be half an hour or longer. That’s on top of the time some travelers may need to spend navigating through congested airport roads, finding parking, taking a shuttle to the terminal and checking bags.
Clear members pay as much as $189 annually for a Clear membership, or $179 for Delta SkyMiles members, with further discounts for elite-level SkyMiles members.
Yet, with thousands of members signed up for Clear hoping to avoid waits at the airport, many are encountering long lines of fellow Clear members.
The TSA PreCheck program for expedited screening costs $78 for five years. Those with both Clear and PreCheck memberships can use the Clear line at the South security checkpoint for PreCheck members.
Separately, Clear plans to soon open at the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson.