Our First Experience Using The CLEAR Checkpoint

We’ve had access to TSA PreCheck lanes at the airport thru our Global Entry membership for over five years and it is one of the most wonderful things we’ve ever signed up for. It  transforms the procedure of going through the security checkpoints from a cattle call to something closer to just a minor inconvenience. However we’ve noticed that while there never used to be any line at the PreCheck lanes, there now can be quite a wait just to get to the point to verify your ID. In Orlando, this is partially because of more people having PreCheck as well as people who don’t belong in the line (usually foreign tourists) waiting and then being told they’re in the wrong line and they have to go wait again in the standard line. At other airports, like LaGuardia in New York and O’Hare in Chicago, we’ve had to wait 10-15 minutes in the PreCheck line just because of the number of travelers and a limited number of check in lines available.

I’ve been going back and forth about enrolling in CLEAR. It’s a third party program that bypasses the normal check of your ID and Boarding Pass. You know, the part where you walk up to a TSA agent and hand them your ID and Boarding Pass and you awkwardly stand there while they look at the paper and look at you.

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During the initial registration with CLEAR, they confirm your identity and get your biometric data (your fingerprints and retinal scan). On subsequent flights, you just need to go the CLEAR checkpoint area, scan your boarding pass and confirm your identity by matching the biometrics on file. The CLEAR agent will then take you through to the baggage screening area, either PreCheck or regular, depending if you are PreCheck eligible.

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The tipping point for me to finally try CLEAR was when I purchased a half-price subscription to TripIt Pro during a Black Friday sale. One of the benefits of a Pro membership is a four month subscription to CLEAR and a free family pass. Since we were flying the day before Thanksgiving, I figured chances were good that we’d see longer lines than usual so I signed us up the night before our flight.

When we got to the airport, we experienced something we weren’t expecting. The security line was shorter than normal. We went to the CLEAR lane at the checkpoint in Orlando but were told we needed to complete our registration at the main check-in area located between the check-in lines.

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The agents were very helpful getting Sharon and I set up in the system. After I logged into the system and completed my fingerprints and retinal scan, I had to answer some questions to confirm my identity. They reminded me of the questions you answer when getting your credit report like “Which one of these streets have you previously lived on?” or “Which one of these is a current or previous employer?” I passed the test and then was asked for payment. Hmmm.

I thought that I had four months free and signed up through the link provided by TripIt Pro. That’s not what the system said. I even was able to show the email registration I received. They couldn’t figure it out so everyone decided that it was time to complete Sharon’s registration but there was no record at all of her in the system even though I registered her the night before.

They had to start from scratch entering her into the system. When we got to the biometrics, there’s a small design flaw with the CLEAR kiosks. They’re all the same height.

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When you’re very short like Sharon is, there’s no way to capture a retinal scan since the reader is way up on the top of the machine and doesn’t tip down low enough. We wondered what would happen but apparently the only thing they do in that case is not collect a retinal scan and just use fingerprints. Only one method of verification is necessary for the system to work.

After we were both registered, the CLEAR agent still couldn’t get our accounts straightened out so he put us both in for a free month and sent a ticket to the service desk to fix our accounts. They did eventually get mine fixed as I’m showing as having four free months and a reduced renewal rate of $159 (the price for having TripIt Pro).

I’m not going to renew at that rate though. CLEAR partners with Delta to provide discounted memberships. You can register directly or you can add your Skymiles number to your account by going to this website.

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So what would you when you see this page. I clicked on the Link Skymiles button and received an error.

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After fiddling around a bit, I found out that you’re supposed to enter your Skymiles number above the Skymiles logo.

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Because that’s where you’d think to type something, right?

When I clicked on Link Skymiles, I received a message saying that CLEAR would confirm my information and update my account. I’m hoping to see that my account will update to show the $79 yearly fee. I already have to contact customer service to get Sharon added to my account as the free family member I get with my TripIt Pro. I’ll give it a few days.

I wish I could give a more detailed review of checking in with CLEAR for our return flight from JFK Airport but they only have locations at Terminals 2 and 4 and we were leaving from Terminal 8.

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Final Thoughts

My first impression of CLEAR is that it may be a time saver at the airport but the website and registration systems are really bad. I’m hoping that once I get all of this straightened out, I’ll just be able to enjoy breezing through the security lane. I’m still not convinced that it’s worth the $129 a year for Sharon and I to keep it.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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