Clear Airport Security Is Back, With All The Downsides

The Clear airport security system that closed last year is back up and running at a new web site and under new ownership. Plus, it promises to honor the membership terms remaining for any previous members at the time the old program closed. That’s the good news. Bad? Clear still stupidly requires biometric registration for no good reason, offers support at a greatly reduced number of airports and might not recognize that you had an account in the past.

Fewer Airports

Previously at flyclear.com, Clear now operates at clearme.com (but the old domain will redirect you to the new location). It promises that Clear lanes will begin again at:

  1. Denver, in October
  2. Orlando, in November

The prior Clear program offered support for these airports:

  1. Albany
  2. Atlanta
  3. Boston Terminal A
  4. Cincinnati
  5. Denver
  6. Indianapolis
  7. Jacksonville
  8. Little Rock
  9. Louisville
  10. Newark-Terminals B1, B2
  11. New York-JFK -Terminals 1, 2, 3, 4, 7
  12. New York-LaGuardia -Central Terminal B, Terminal D
  13. Oakland
  14. Orlando
  15. Reno-Tahoe
  16. Salt Lake City
  17. San Francisco
  18. San Jose
  19. Washington-Dulles
  20. Washington-Reagan
  21. Westchester

So, that 2 airports down, 19 more to go to get back to where Clear was.

Biometric Bull

Oddly, Clear’s still going with cards that require people to log biometrics — taking your fingerprints and scanning your eyes. If you were never in Clear before, you can only do this at the two airports where Clear operates. And what do you get after all this work? The ability to walk to the front of the security line.

Well heck, I do that already using my Southwest A-List card, using Southwest’s Fly By lanes. I didn’t have to have my eyes scanned, my fingerprints taken. I didn’t have to bring two different forms of photo ID. Nor do I have to use slow, inconvenient fingerprint scanning devices before I can even go through the express security lane.

Nah, I just had to fly Southwest a lot. Lots of other frequent flyers have this option, too.

If you don’t fly a lot, and you use the specific Clear airports now, then paying for one of the new cards and going through the registration hassle might make sense. But I have to wonder why the new Clear just didn’t ditch the entire biometric aspect.

Not Security Bypass, Just Front Of The Line Service

The old system had all this because it was supposed to let you BYPASS security, not just take you to the front of the line. That never happened. The new system doesn’t seem like it had to do what the old one did (which in turn, came through a TSA program). It seems like the new Clear just could have negotiated special express lines with each airport just as the airlines do — lines that that you to the front of the security line, but not around it.

Why Clear Might Not Remember You

If you had a card, sure, why not renew. But don’t be surprised if the Clear site doesn’t recognize you. I tried to reregistered, and if failed to find me.

After calling Clear, I learned that not everyone has been uploaded into the database. When you are, you’re supposed to get an email and/or a printed letter telling you to re-register.

There’s nothing on the Clear site that explains this. The phone rep seem surprised I knew about the Clear site reopening, and that officially, it wasn’t supposed to be out there. Well officially, Clear tweeted about it earlier this month. So officially, there ought to be some more explanation and help about who can and can’t yet re-register on the site itself.

I’ll also be curious if Clear really will honor the rest of my term. I’d referred so many people to Clear through a program that gave them and me an extra month of membership that my card was good through 2064.

For past posts from me about Clear, see my category about the service, and here are some selected posts:

And thanks to Mark Rosch for the tip on Clear being back.

Postscript:

I just had a call from Clear’s new CEO, Caryn Seidman-Becker, who talked to me a bit more about the system and answered some questions I had. Talk about fast and high level response!

On the limited number of airports, she said “you’ve got to walk before you run,” and that Clear fully intends to expand. She said enrollment is faster than in the past and that the number of enrollment stations would expand.

Why go the biometric route? Clear is building a biometric security company, one that might allow those with verified security cards to bypass or speed through security on cruise ships, with companies and other places. “If you just buy a lane at an airport, you can’t do that,” she said.

She asked what I liked and disliked about the old service. Well, I loved getting to security faster. But I hated that to do this, I was taken through the regular security line, with people sometimes literally pushed out of the way. In contrast, most airports I’ve been to have separate express lines for those airline frequent flyer cards that allow access.

Good news, there — Seidman-Becker said that Clear will be getting its own dedicated lanes.

I also said that I hated having to scan my fingerprints just to be taken to the front of the line, where I still would have my security checked — something unnecessary when I use my Southwest card. She pointed out that Clear actually took me past security.

Indeed, I’d forgotten this. You would be escorted past  the TSA agent who normally checks your ID and ticket and be delivered to the x-ray line. That definitely saved time, in some cases.

Still, I pushed that many people would be happy just with a network of express lanes, that maybe building those out would be a form of “walking first,” with biometics stations coming next.

Another thing I liked about the old Clear is that I didn’t have a frequent flyer card with enough status to let me use the special airline lanes at the time, so this was a great options (more of these lines also seem to have appeared since Clear went away).

There’s no doubt that Clear potentially offers people an easy network for speeding through security, if it grows. And the company deserves kudos for its pledge to honor all remaining time on anyone’s membership. Yes, Seidman-Becker said, my membership through 2064 will stay intact.

It’s still a tough sell for someone new at $179 per year, I’d say. If you are using one of the existing airports often, and you don’t have alternative to speed through security, then the new Clear is worth considering. If not, I think it’s still wait-and-see time, until the airports expand.

By the way, here’s an article from the New York Times in April, about the new company.


Comments

  1. says

    I’m glad to see them back, but think that the extension of old contracts shouldn’t count down at the normal rate until they get the airport list back up to speed. I never would have joined for Denver and Orlando, and for all practical purposes my remaining months will be expired before the service becomes useful to me again. How about 2064 for everyone?

  2. Mitch Green says

    Craig,

    CLEAR’s new Terms of Service state clearly that they won’t start the clock on your renewed membership until one of the following conditions are met: 1) service is restarted at your “home” airport; 2) you use your card. Quoting from their web site: “Your free membership begins the first time you use your CLEARcard or when we open in your home airport – whichever is first.” They also say that other airports will be announced soon. Were you happier when CLEAR was a zombie? Or are you just angry that your home airport isn’t the first to be re-enlisted after Alclear LLC acquired the Clear Registered Traveler program in a bankruptcy auction for $6 million?

    Danny,

    CLEAR offers an advantage over any airline frequent flier program. In the heydays of CLEAR in Denver (and elsewhere) there were 3 security lines: 1) infrequent fliers (hundreds of people); 2) frequent fliers (dozens of people); 3) CLEAR customers (a handful of people). Admitted, the retinal scan and fingerprints do nothing other than to allow a traveler to PURCHASE the right to cut in front of both lines #1 and #2. But the original cost of ~$100/year to cut the line in front of everyone was worth it for a frequent flyer. It made getting through the security lines a predictable experience.

  3. Dave Denman says

    I’m also glad to see them back. As someone who travels to and from NY regularly, CLEAR was a godsend. I’m not sure what the Denver traffic can be like, but getting to the front of the line at Laguardia at 4:00 on Friday afternoon was worth any price. I do agree that not having separate lines made for uncomfortable situations. Especially, when they would push the New Yorkers off the belt and put my stuff on, while I was wearing my Red Sox cap.

  4. says

    Having just arrived from a long weekend out of the country, I cannot tell you what a “front of the line” escort through immigration would have done for my fatigue. Definitely will be looking into them, even if they have a ways to go.

    Thanks!

  5. Debby says

    I hope they add (LAS) Las Vegas, NV and (CLT) Charlotte, NC to the “soon” list. I too agree that it was very uncomfortable to cut in front of people at the x-ray machine.

    When I originally joined, I thought the biometric security information was so frequent travellers could bypass the xray process. The FBI has all the information they need to find us!

    It is nice to honor time left on pre-existing memberships, but they should offer a discount price for renewals.

  6. carol d says

    what a grouch that wrote the article. what a negative irritable old dud.
    I love Clear and am glad to see it back. Nuff said. back off you old grouch.

  7. ben says

    At Denver, the elite line can be very long, much slower than clear, but faster than the regular line. I am a 1k and regularly, use the clear line instead of the elite line because it is much faster. I agree that a dedicated line is needed. it was uncomfortable that clear would “cut” and put me to the front of the scanner conveyor. I don’t feel the finger scanners are slow. I enjoyed the old clear better, than the new because they took me to the very front of the line. The security experience never took more than 120 seconds! $179. is a bargain.

  8. Rob says

    One year later – still just Denver and Orlando. I was a Clear user out of Boston and would be happy to have them back. I’m Diamond on Delta – but Clear was always quicker. What’s with the slow roll out?