Longer PreCheck lines and a big new investor are breathing new life into Clear, the biometric-based trusted traveler membership program that lets travelers go directly into the TSA screening process.
Once TSA revved up its PreCheck expedited screening program, things didn’t look good for Clear, which costs more to join ($179 a year for a standard membership vs. PreCheck’s $85 for five years) and was only available in a handful of airports (13, vs. 160 for PreCheck). But now Clear’s fortunes appear to be changing, according to The Wall Street Journal (paywall).
It notes that Clear’s membership roster has tripled over the past 12 months, and now totals half a million. PreCheck has also been growing, leading to longer lines at its airport checkpoints as the number of travelers continues to surge and TSA implements more stringent security procedures following terrorist attacks in Europe.
Nonetheless, Clear handles only a tiny fraction of the traffic at airport security– for example, the WSJ reported that it handled only about about 10,000 out of the 2 million passengers at Las Vegas McCarran in March. At SFO, Clear entry points usually look like the one pictured below.
But Clear members, who check in with biometric identifiers, are are escorted straight into the front of the screening lines (although they don’t qualify for PreCheck screening unless they join that program separately). What’s more, some PreCheck members have complained that TSA doesn’t always keep those expedited checkpoints open even at airports where they exist.
And Clear recently got a big vote of confidence from Delta Air Lines, which bought a 5 percent stake in the company and plans to hand out memberships to its top SkyMiles elites.
The new investment from Delta is expected to speed up Clear’s expansion to more airports – especially those where Delta has a major presence. For example, Clear is expected to debut at Seattle-Tacoma next month, the Journal noted, adding that Clear expects to be in 24 airports by year’s end.
Readers: Do you use Clear, or did you use it in the past? Tell us about your experience with it, and whether you might use it again in the future.
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