As a very frequent flier I was pleased to no end when the “trusted traveler” Clear Program came on to the scene. I got to use them quite a bit before they went bankrupt in 2009 when the economy crashed. I was saddened by the loss of this service, but life went on. In the last several months TSA has been rolling out their own program that is now branded TSA Pre and this “pres-screening”service offers the benefit of zipping through a TSA checkpoint without having to take off your shoes, belt, liquids or electronics out of you bag. Best of all it’s FREE. Although it totally rocks, it’s not a guarantee. You are “randomly” selected each time you check in at an airport to either go through the TSA Pre line or the regular line. It’s also only for domestic travel. If any part of your itinerary is international you won’t be selected for TSA Pre. My luck so far has been about 90% of the time I get to go through the TSA Pre line and it’s been GREAT!
CLEAR is back!
A while back Clear announced new ownership and that they were making a come back. I for whatever reason, kept my CLEAR card. I guess it was just such a cool looking card that I didn’t want to shred it. When they announced that they were re-opening CLEAR lines, I put the card back in my wallet. Just last night when leaving SFO I got to use the CLEAR line. So far they have only re-opened at MCO, DFW and now SFO.
CLEAR vs TSA Pre
You might be asking yourself at this point “do I even need CLEAR anymore?” My answer to that question is “it depends.” It seems that CLEAR is open at airports that don’t yet have TSA Pre. Also remember that TSA Pre is not guaranteed for every check-in. With that said, my CLEAR membership is good through November 2013 and TSA Pre is at all but a few of the airports I travel through most often. I would be hard pressed to renew it in 2013 and PAY again. While TSA Pre isn’t everywhere yet, it most likely will be by 11/2013. It’s FREE and even with CLEAR you still have to go through the regular screening like everyone else. CLEAR just gets you to the front of the line. There was one trip that I was leaving MCO (Orland0) and MCO doesn’t have a frequent flyer line (or at least they didn’t back then). There were no less than 2 million people in line (OK, maybe more like 200) when I was running a little late for my flight. I remembered that MCO had a CLEAR lane, I ran up to it, got escorted right to the front of the line (sorry 200 people) and had no problem making my flight. So the advantage is “CLEAR” when it’s an airport that doesn’t have TSA Pre or a priority line, but the number of those airports is far and few between.
My prediction is that we may see CLEAR shut down again in a year or so unless they can find more ways to differentiate their services over the FREE TSA Pre program and frequent flyer lines. They have a long way to go in terms of opening up and staffing lanes at all the airports they used to be in vs. all the airports period. It’s now $179/year and I would have paid that without batting an eye before, where as now I definitely question the value. If you fly out of MCO, DFW or SFO regularly then it’s probably worth it for at least this year. After that we’ll have to see.
Last night when I went through the CLEAR lane, it didn’t seem any faster than going through the Delta Sky Priority line, which only had a couple of people in it at the time. However, had the Sky Priority line been packed, the CLEAR would have been better as it’s almost never that busy. My recommendation to CLEAR is to work it out with TSA so that CLEAR members can also skip the strip down and body scanners!