Why I Signed Back Up For CLEAR

I’ve had a heavy travel schedule for 10 years now.  I don’t believe I’ve had a year where I flew less than 100,000 miles since 2007.  Over that time, a lot has changed in travel.  For the most part, though, airport security lines have been the same.  Long.

TSA PreCheck made it much easier for frequent travelers like me to get through the airport.  By maintaining a Global Entry membership, I’m able to ensure that I have access to the PreCheck lanes virtually 100% of the time.  Before there as PreCheck, I was a member of CLEAR.  It seemed like the implementation and expansion of the PreCheck program would be a death sentence for CLEAR.

It kind of was, with CLEAR going bankrupt and then being resurrected from the dead some months later.  They offered me a free year of access to come back.  After some fits and starts and a really good customer service recovery, I re-joined CLEAR.  But, there was a story I never did tell on the blog.

This seems like a good place to stop and explain what CLEAR is.  Just in case you’re not familiar, it’s a paid “cut the line” service at airports.  They’ve rolled it out at stadiums and other such venues, none of which really appeal to me.  You pay a fee, hand over your biometrics, submit to a background check and get shorter lines at the airport.

Anyway, I don’t share every bad story that happens.  But, I am pretty stubborn, especially when something bad happens.  I had an experience in Denver at a CLEAR kiosk shortly after I wrote that post that was clearly one of the worst customer service interactions I’ve ever had.  It was shockingly bad.  Like, supervisor dressing down employee in front of me and then picking a fight with me kind of bad.

Another employee spotted the interaction and saw how bad it was.  She walked over to the supervisor and tried to diffuse the situation.  I had a flight to board and went on my way.  The supervisor chased after me and, in just about the snarkiest way possible, shoved a paper and pen in my face (while I was in line to go through security) and told me to write down my information.  I declined.  She said something like, “Well, how do you expect us to do something to make up for our error today if you don’t tell us who you are?”

I pointed out to her that I had just verified myself using their kiosk.  If she really wanted to do something, they had my info.  She agreed and waked away.  I figured I would give it a few days to see what they did before writing about it.  When no communication came, I just decided I wasn’t willing to give them any more money.  I know, I know.  They owed me a free year of service, which I never really got to use.  I told you I was stubborn.

I made sure to show up at the airport a bit early when traveling through places like Denver Airport, where TSA PreCheck lines can get quite unruly.

Two Years Later

The TSA PreCheck lines at Denver Airport have really gotten out of control.  Now, Dulles is starting to get wonky at certain times.  My business partner asked me recently if I belonged to CLEAR. He was thinking about signing up because of long lines at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, his home airport.  I told him why I wasn’t.  A couple of years later, the reasons sounded hollow.

So many organizations I interact with have crappy customer service (looking at you, United).  But, they can be necessary evils.  CLEAR has fallen back into that category for me.  I need consistency when I go through airports.  I need to know I’m not going to get stuck in a long line, that way I can maximize my time in business meetings and when I’m home with family.  Time in line is time away from my family, or less productivity.

Here’s a shot of a recent TSA PreCheck line at Washington-National Airport.  The perspective isn’t great, but it’s a long line.  I’ve seen lines like this start to pop up infrequently at airports where I never had a problem before.

Two years ago, I predicted an increase in TSA PreCheck lines.  I’ve mostly been wrong.  Sure, things are worse at a few airports.  But, I would have expected longer lines by now.

Maybe I’ll regret paying for CLEAR (again).  If it’s a waste of money, I hope I’ll be honest with myself and cancel (again).  I’m really not ready to recommend CLEAR to people again.  You’re much better off signing up for TSA PreCheck.  You’re even better off signing up for Global Entry and getting both for roughly the same price.  But, in the interest of keeping readers informed, I’ve dipped my toe back in the water with CLEAR.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

How are others finding airport security?

The post Why I Signed Back Up For CLEAR was published first on Pizza in Motion

17 Comments

  1. This isn’t me disagreeing with your decision to dump CLEAR the first time (sounds like something I would’ve done too), it’s me sharing my experience using CLEAR at least 2 to 3 times a week, for a year. It has saved me immeasurable amounts of time in ATL and SFO, less in DCA. For what it’s worth, I haven’t had a single negative interaction with any CLEAR employee, in fact, most of the time they’re noticeably polite. Now that I won’t have to deal with the PreCheck lines in Atlanta on Monday morning for very much longer, I may change my mind, but so far I am very happy with my CLEAR investment.

  2. I just signed up fir clear but not sure I’ll keep it if they dont expand to more airports. Denver seems worse lately and the secret main level bridge tsa pre is usually not open but you have to walk way over there just to find out. Unless you hit it at a slow time of day the downstairs pre lines are like 50 people plus. So why am i not sure I’ll keep it. Well i only go to Denver a few times a year and most other airports i frequent dont seem that bad in the pre line. We’ll see.

  3. I always thought CLEAR was kind of a waste of money in it’s early days. However, when Delta invested in them last year and then started giving free memberships to their Diamond Medallions, I signed up since it was free, and I was flying out of LAS for work regularly. It wasn’t long after that they launched at the DC area airports. I’m still not sure I’d pay for it, as it saves me a little time at DCA but rarely much time (LAS is a different story). But, as long as it’s free to me I’ll stick with it, as even when the PreCheck line is short, I still skip ahead of a few people. It also helps that all airports where I’ve used CLEAR are ones where you can still go through PreCheck. I’ve seen reports of a few where it’s an either/or situation, and in those cases, PreCheck wins.

  4. Ed, I haven’t checked their policies, techniques, etc, but how do you feel about their security? Not sure I want to risk my biometrics. Though I confess I keep thinking about it…

  5. My experience has all been positive. I was one of the first to sign up and loved it. However, when TSA Pre came along, I dropped it. How great was that in the beginning? Maybe two or three people in line. Now it is often no better than the priority line…and at my home SFO airport it can be worse. So I rejoined Clear and am so happy. I have always had the best customer service – and the staff always seem so cheerful. When i rejoined I didn’t realize that Delta Diamond covered that expense – so it was a nice surprise to see that credit show up. Point is – it is free to me but I would have gladly paid.

  6. Interesting; I, too, left CLEAR after a very poor customer service incident in DEN, but I just rejoined for precisely the ability to avoid the ever-increasing PreCheck lines. Until DEN I had excellent experiences with them, but ever since it seems that they’re just any other company now trying to use “customer service” as a way to protect themselves and not offer much in the way of service. But I still get to security faster with CLEAR than without in many situations, so I’m willing to pay.

  7. I too had clear years ago. And I dropped it. Recently they opened at all terminals in Los Angeles except for my terminal, Southwest terminal. I emailed the head of marketing at the company complaining that their website said “coming soon”. The head of operations emailed me within 12 hours and let me know why it had not opened yet and when it would be opening, then emailed me the day before, and then the day of. I have used it three times since then and absolutely love it! It was particularly helpful yesterday at the crowded Las Vegas airport.

    The people cannot be friendlier and for less than 100 bucks, it is a complete no-brainer.

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