A little over a month ago I commented on the impending integration of the Clear lane with TSA Pre-Check at Denver International Airport. Clear, now in it’s second iteration, is a program that provides an opportunity to skip the line when trying to clear security in a small number of domestic US airports. The knock on Clear is that it’s really just cutting part of the line. For example, in Denver, once you get through the Clear checkpoint, you still have to select a security lane and stand in line with everyone else. To compound this in Denver, the Clear lanes used to dump you out at the line for families traveling with children, not the expert traveler line.
Fast forward to the new setup, which I’ve used twice now. Once you “clear” Clear, assuming you qualify for TSA Pre-Check, you walk 5 feet and are escorted into the Pre-Check line. As you can see from the picture below, it’s a very streamlined process.
Now, this is only for the South checkpoint, and I haven’t seen news of them expanding this format elsewhere, but it sure works well. The current problem with Clear is the lack of airports it’s available in. It’s currently only available at:
San Francisco (SFO)
Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW)
The fee is $179 a year, though they appear to be running a special where you can pay $79 to try it for 6 months (they also ran a special during the holidays that was $49 for 6 months). When Clear went away the first time, I still had time left on my membership (I was “lucky” enough to renew for multiple years right before they went bankrupt). The new Clear honored my original renewal, so I haven’t had to pay anything yet. Would I pay $179 for 5 airports? Probably not, but that will depend on what happens with TSA-PreCheck, speaking of which…..
The NY Times is reporting that the TSA is expanding the Pre-Check program with something they’re calling “managed inclusion”. Ever had a TSA agent walk up to you while you were waiting in line and ask how you were doing? That was most likely one of their behavior detection folks trying to determine if you were a threat. What they’re now proposing is if they don’t think you’re a threat, they might let you walk over to that empty TSA Pre-Check line and scoot through security faster.
The head of TSA, John Pistole is quoted as saying only about 5% of domestic passengers used Pre-Check versus the 30% they’d like to see. I’d certainly like to see it remain at 5% so I can always get through security in 90 seconds, but I’m sure that’s not meant to be! They’re only testing this in two airports (Indianapolis and Tampa)but if successful they plan to expand it soon.
What’s the bottom line here? If you haven’t started using Pre-Check, you should. If you’re a frequent traveler, you can likely sign up with your primary airline. You can also sign up for Global Entry, which also gives you access to Pre-Check.
Michelle just got done with her Global Entry application. I completed the online portion, which took about 30 minutes. We scheduled her for an appointment at IAD. Because of the uptick in Global Entry applications, they schedule a handful of people at the same time. My wife’s appointment lasted about 25 minutes. The first 23 minutes was waiting in the room for an agent, the final two minutes her interview. Quoting Michelle, “The agent asked me what I did for a living. When I replied “stay at home mom” he reached for the passport sticker and I was on my way shortly thereafter.” Mickie used to be a teacher and is in the process of starting her own Pilates studio. But, for the time being, her chosen career appears to be a shortcut for the Global Entry interview!
As an aside, I had our son with us at the airport while Mickie was in the interview. I was flying out shortly after the interview, but I was in charge of keeping our son occupied. While there are lots of fun things to occupy a 2-year old in an airport, my son chose a relic from my generation.
The phone banks kept him pretty busy for 30 minutes. Go figure!
The other nugget from the TSA is that they’re considering a “Global Entry Light” where people can apply to be considered for TSA PreCheck in the domestic US for a small fee. This would almost certainly spell the end of Clear. PreCheck is pretty widely disseminated now (see the chart below), so it’s time for you to jump onboard. Who wouldn’t want a 90 second security process where you don’t have to remove your shoes, belt or take your liquids or laptop computer out of your bag?