What’s the worst part about flying? Arguably, the long airport security lines. But if you could cut your security-line time to about five minutes, the airport would be a whole lot less stressful. Introducing: Clear, a service that does just that.
Read on to find out what exactly Clear is, how it came about, and how people feel about the service.
1. The origin story
Clear was founded in 2003, but the company had a bit of a rocky start. Originally, its name was Verified Identity Pass, and it had a heavy debt load and high operating expenses. VIP filed for bankruptcy in 2009 after the company lost a laptop that contained enrollees’ unencrypted personal information.
Flash-forward to 2010 when Caryn Seidman Becker and Ken Cornick bought the company and rebranded as Clear. They took the necessary steps to cut costs and improve efficiency. Today, Clear is a profitable, popular business. In fact, in 2016, Delta bought 5% of Clear, and earlier in 2017, T. Rowe Price invested $15 million, according to The New York Times.
2. How it works
The intention of Clear is simple: “Speed through security lines in 5 minutes or less.” When you visit its website, it walks you through the process of the program in three easy steps: Locate the Clear lane in your airport, verify your identity using your fingerprint or their eye scanner, and voilà, you’re in the clear.
However, keep in mind that you’re not getting out of dealing with TSA altogether. “Clear customers are prescreened by the TSA, like other travelers. But at an airport where Clear is operating, instead of handing passports or driver’s licenses to TSA agents, Clear members may re-scan their fingers or eyes at the company’s kiosks,” according to The New York Times. “They then walk through a dedicated lane that leads directly to TSA body and carry-on bag scanners, where they undergo physical screening. There they might encounter a line, typically a shorter one.”
3. How much it costs
To be a Clear member, pricing is $15 per month, or $179 a year. To enroll, its website instructs you to start the process online and then visit one of its locations to complete your enrollment in five to 10 minutes. Just don’t forget to bring your ID (U.S. driver’s license, passport, passport card, U.S.-issued permanent resident card, state issued ID, or U.S. military ID). Children can use Clear for free, as long as they’re accompanied by an adult family member who is also a member.
4. There’s a free trial
Not sure whether you’re sold yet? You’re in luck because Clear offers a free trial. Simply enroll here, and you get two months of the service for free. Just remember that once the trial ends, it renews at $179 for a year of service. You could also keep this free trial in your back pocket just in case you have a flight coming up that you know you’ll be rushing to get to. And the Clear free trial could be a lifesaver in the case of a last-minute emergency flight.
5. How it works with the TSA
Though Clear is an independent company, it does work directly with the TSA. “The TSA oversees and actively tests Clear’s technology,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told The New York Times. Clear can have this relationship with the TSA because the Department of Homeland Security certifies Clear’s technology as a part of the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act.
6. Where you can use Clear
As of today, Clear operates in 24 airports and seven sports arenas. It has more than 1 million subscribers. (It originally inherited 190,000.) You can find Clear in these major cities: Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
7. What people think
The reviews are a bit mixed. Depending on where you look and whom you ask, people have different feelings about using Clear. Skift did a review that was mostly positive. It said the service wouldn’t necessarily be useful for every traveler, but for those who “want to maximize every possible hack to save time and reduce friction, Clear is now worth looking into, even if you have PreCheck.”
However, the Yelp reviews for the Clear program in San Francisco aren’t so positive. Overall, Clear gets just 2.5 stars. Customers frequently complain about the customer service and, ironically, the lack of clarity in the program.