If there is one thing that unites air travelers everywhere, it is the mutual hatred of airport security lines. Have you ever arrived at the airport on time, but still missed your flight? Getting to the airport on time doesn’t cut it anymore. These days, the Transportation Security Administration creates bottlenecks at the security screening area, which makes many travelers unable to get to the gate on time and miss their flights.In a situation like this, the passenger is not entitled for any compensation. For the airline industry, here’s the bottom line: You paid for a seat and didn’t use it. Offering you another ticket would cost the airline money in lost revenue.
Years ago, going through airport security was a simple process. You simply got into the line, put your stuff through the x-ray machine, and walked through the metal detector. Today, the situation is much more complex, with as many as four different security lines at some airports, various levels of identity verification and screening offered, and a shifting array of rules and guidelines for each.
Luckily, there are more and more ways to minimize your time in TSA lines.
Airports now have special lines for airline elite members and premium cabin travelers. The TSA itself offers a paid service called TSA-Precheck that requires a background check in exchange for quicker screening. Passengers who are accepted into trusted traveler programs like Global Entry and NEXUS are also entitled to TSA Precheck. In short, there are a lot of ways to escape waiting in the lines.
One of the not-quite-as-well-known methods for circumventing long airport security lines is a paid service called CLEAR.
What is CLEAR
CLEAR is the private-sector trusted traveler program that lets its members speed past the long lines to airport security screening.
In the past, new members had to wait for their CLEAR card to arrive in the mail before they could use the lanes at the airport. Regular members had to present their card and boarding pass at the kiosk.
Now cardless, new members can enroll and all members can now use the lanes with just a fingerprint scan and boarding pass. And regular members no longer have to remember to pack their CLEARcard.
Some frequent travelers may wonder why they need CLEAR when they are already members of the TSA PreCheck program. Well, have you seen the lines in PreCheck lanes lately? Sometimes they can be longer than non-PreCheck lanes. A CLEAR membership is fully compatible with TSA’s PreCheck program at all CLEAR airports.
Where is CLEAR
Unfortunately CLEAR is currently only in a limited number of airports, although the company is implementing a strategy to expand. If it was available as widely as TSA Precheck, it would truly be a frequent traveler’s dream. You can currently find CLEAR at the following airports:
Austin, TX (AUS)
Miami, FL (MIA)
Baltimore, MD (BWI)
Orlando, FL (MCO)
Dallas/Fort Worth, TX (DFW)
San Antonio, TX (SAT)
Denver, CO (DEN)
San Francisco, CA (SFO
Houston, TX – George Bush (IAH)
San Jose, CA (SJC )
Houston, TX – William Hobby (HOU)
Westchester County, NY (HPN)
Las Vegas, NV (LAS)
How Does CLEAR Work?
In order to use CLEAR, you need to sign up, pay the registration fee, and be fingerprinted and iris scanned in one of the CLEAR registration locations (you can do it at a participating airport but occasionally CLEAR offers enrollment centers elsewhere). CLEAR used to send you a membership card in the mail a few days later, but CLEAR has recently gone cardless which makes things even easier and your wallet a little lighter.
Once you are a CLEAR member, you simply show up at a participating airport and head into the CLEAR lane next to the main TSA lines. Your fingerprint will be scanned for identification verification at the kiosk in a matter of seconds. Then the CLEAR kiosk employee will escort you directly to the TSA checkpoint. In my experience, I’ve always been taken directly to the place where travelers are grabbing bins and putting them on the belt right before go through the metal detectors – usually there are only 3 or 4 people in front of me.
You likely know what this means: with CLEAR, you get to CUT. THE. LINE. All of it. It’s pretty darn amazing. And you feel a little like a VIP in the process.
Adequate Fee For The Comfort
Of course, all of this this amazing line-cutting comes at a cost. CLEAR membership is normaly $179 per year and spouses can be added for $50 more. I think it is a fair price considering the peace of mind that no TSA line can cost you missed flight. There is also benefit for families, that kids under 18 accompanying a CLEAR family member can use the CLEAR lanes at no cost and do not need to pre-enroll.
In addition, if you pay for your CLEAR membership with a Visa Signature card (and register at Visa Signature), you can 6 months free CLEAR membership and $60 off the annual fee when your membership automatically renews. (You may have a Visa Signature card in your wallet right now and not even know it – I have several and it never occurred to me to flip them over to check!)