For those unaware, CLEAR was a program that pre-dated TSA PreCheck and allowed for a “skip the line pass”. You still needed to go through traditional security screening, but you were pushed to the front of the line. It started 2005-ish and perished about 4 years later. It was purchased out of bankruptcy and restarted, though with significantly less airports than before.
I was lucky enough to purchase a renewal for my wife and I just a month or so before they declared bankruptcy. The company that bought their assets out of bankruptcy and restarted the program offered to honor my previous membership, so I signed back up. I even enjoyed some of the changes, like integrating the CLEAR line into PreCheck at Denver International Airport.
Ultimately, when my membership expired, it just seemed like a business expense that I could trim. The PreCheck lines were efficient enough and there weren’t enough airports signed up for CLEAR.
Fast forward a year or two and the PreCheck lines at DEN are actually starting to get a bit unruly. Nothing crazy, but it’s not uncommon for there to be a few dozen people in line. As TSA continues to mix in folks that aren’t familiar with PreCheck the lines have slowed down. Some people don’t understand they can leave their shoes on, liquids and laptops in bags. The CLEAR line cuts right to the front of the queue in DEN and as I’ve watched the PreCheck line grow I thought it might be worth it to sign up for CLEAR again. With my travel schedule, I kept putting it off.
Then, CLEAR sent me an e-mail offering a free year of membership for a family member. Since I had already decided to sign up again, this was a good plus. I e-mailed them and they told me I needed to call in to reactivate.
I hopped on the phone and explained that I wanted to reactivate and add the year onto my wife’s account, which was still dormant from the bankruptcy. The agent said that would be no problem and collected my credit card info to charge me. After charging me she told me that she wouldn’t be able to extend the free year because my wife was a “legacy member”. But, not to worry, I could still use the “free” time on my wife’s old account.
I pointed out that the “free” days left on my wife’s account weren’t so free, since I paid for them prior to the bankruptcy and the new CLEAR had already agreed to honor them as soon as they started back up. I even read through the terms & conditions and there was no mention about a legacy member versus a new member, just an offer for a free year for a family member. She told me there was nothing else she could do for me. It was pretty obvious this was a contract call center, so I asked for a supervisor.
Same story from the supervisor, and I started to become frustrated. If they had explained to me before they charged my card, at least I could have evaluated whether I wanted to continue without the offer, or wait for a different offer. There were other offers CLEAR had made but this one was the most rewarding for me, hence the reason I had chosen it. Now I was being told I got no offer. I told them I wanted them to reverse the charge on my credit card and escalate the issue. They told me the only thing they could do was delete my entire account, including my biometric info. That would have been a pain, since I don’t think there’s an enrollment facility in my area any longer. I asked them to escalate and hoped that things would sort themselves out. They said someone would get back to me in 1-2 business days. I wasn’t optimistic.
Needless to say, I was surprised when my phone rang less than 10 minutes later. It was someone from CLEAR HQ. He explained that they hadn’t intended for the offer to be extended to legacy members, but that he was happy to honor it in my situation and extend my wife’s membership.
After the first two interactions, I was really pleased with the quick turnaround and polite nature of the follow-up call. The favorable resolution didn’t hurt, either! As I told the gentleman I spoke with, the burn wasn’t being eligible for the free year (worth $179), it was the process.
Now, I’ve got a year to evaluate if CLEAR is worth my money. It certainly is in Denver, but I’m not sure how many times I’ll fly there this year. The other cities are:
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
- Denver (DEN)
- Houston (IAH and HOU)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- Miami (MIA): Coming Soon
- Orlando (MCO)
- San Antonio (SAT)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- San Jose (SJC)
- Westchester (HPN)
While I fly in and out of most of these airports, I haven’t paid attention to the length of the TSA PreCheck lines. The lines at my home airport (Washington-Dulles) are longer now, but I rarely wait more than 10 minutes). I expect the lines to get longer as TSA adds more folks to the program, but we’ll have to wait and see. More cities would definitely increase the likelihood I renew.
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