Home Travel CLEAR Is Touchless. Except When It Isn’t

CLEAR Is Touchless. Except When It Isn’t

by SharonKurheg

CLEAR is a secure identity platform that stores individuals’ personal information and links it to biometric data (fingerprint and retinal scan.) This allows people aged 18+ to bypass the travel document checker at security checkpoints in, as of this writing, 32 cities (and 4 stadiums) across the country.

Joe and I have been CLEAR members since late 2018 (here’s a report of our first experience with it. SPOILER – it was not as seamless as we would have thought). We had gotten it for free through TripIt Pro, so the price was certainly right. After the free trial was over, Joe got a few more months at a reduced rate thanks to one of his credit cards.  But even after 6 months of usage, we were still kind of underwhelmed with it (it was purely a Your Mileage May Vary sort of thing).

Despite that, we still have CLEAR because we’ve been getting partially reimbursed from one of our Amex cards so that the price has been reasonable. We figure when it’s only about $29/year, it’s worth it for the times that an airport is crazy busy (plus – and don’t tell him I said this – Joe is a techno-geek and I think he likes being able to use CLEAR “just because he can”).

Anyway, CLEAR had been pretty quiet during the bulk of the coronavirus pandemic. But with more people flying, they’re starting to advertise again. I’ve seen ads for it online and even got one of those offers to give away free trials of the program.

One of the things CLEAR is touting more than ever right now is that they’re touchless. That’s not surprising in light of COVID, and probably a wise decision on their part. However, it brought up an interesting situation for me.

The CLEAR kiosks are all the same height and are made so they can get the retinal scans of people within a wide range of heights.


However if you’re very short, like I am (all 4’6″ of me – I shrunk another 1/4″ y’all! Yay for getting older!), well, the retinal scanners just can’t aim THAT low. So whereas most people have fingerprint and iris identification in their CLEAR profile, I only have the fingerprint.

That’s fine because you only need to use one or the other. But CLEAR is going on and on about being touchless, so I wanted to know what they were doing for someone like me, who doesn’t have the retina scan in their profile. So I emailed them on April 15th:

Hello! I’ve been a member of CLEAR for several years.

Ever since I started with CLEAR, I’ve only had my fingertips on file, not retina (I’m very short and your scanner couldn’t reach far down enough to scan my retinas).

I’m looking forward to my first post-COVID flight this summer. However I’d much rather go through CLEAR “touchless,” like you advertise, since I feel it’s safer.

How can we ensure this will happen?

Looking forward to your reply,

15 days later (and with an apology for the delay), I had my reply:



Thank you for reaching out and I am happy to help. I am so sorry for the delay.


I checked in with my team and I can advise that you can try again to get your retinas verified if you would like on your next trip with CLEAR. However, if we are unable to add your retina I can advise that we would have to continue to use your fingerprints but we do have hand sanitizer available as well.



I would be willing to wager that CLEAR has not updated their technology (or height of same) at all, and I still wouldn’t be tall enough to get my retinas scanned by them, even if we redid them.

This means that anyone who is a dwarf/little person (officially 4’10” or under), or, for that matter, uses a typical wheelchair for mobility (because they’d be sitting and wouldn’t be tall enough for the scanners either) are out of luck when it comes to being touchless.

CLEAR does cover this possibility on the Support page of their website:

Is CLEAR touchless?


When enrolling in CLEAR in person, you will need to briefly interact with our pod screen to provide and verify information.  Once your enrollment is complete, you will engage with CLEAR in a verification capacity for all future interactions.

When verifying at a CLEAR airport lane, your experience is fully touchless using our iris technology.  If we have not captured your iris during enrollment or if we have trouble reading your iris, you may be required to use your fingerprints, in which case one of our ambassadors will sanitize the reader prior to and after using. Once we’ve identified you with your fingerprint, we’ll be able to capture your iris for future verification purposes.  Hand sanitizer is also available in lane for your use.

In extenuating circumstances, you may be required to touch the pod screen – for example, in Illinois, state law requires an opt-in acknowledgement on-screen for a biometric verification.  Pods are wiped down between uses in this state, and hand sanitizer is available in the lane for use.

Am I personally concerned about all of this? Nope. They still have the alternative of using the fingerprint method, so it’s not as if there’s discrimination going on. And by this point in the pandemic, I’m perfectly comfortable using the finger scanner, as long as hand sanitizer is involved.

But it does show that, just like the concept of “one size fits most,” CLEAR is indeed touchless…except when it isn’t. 😉

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#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands #wearamask #getyourCOVIDvaccine

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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