For the first time in my life, I recently had the pleasure of going through the TSA Checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Needless to say, it was an experience.
After being dropped off at the airport, I needed to find my way to the CLEAR/TSA Precheck lane. I quickly learned that this was separate from the CLEAR and TSA Precheck lines. Located at the end of the building is the line for people who have both CLEAR and TSA Precheck.
If you’re not familiar, the combination of the two is supposed to mean you can breeze through the checkpoints and be on the way to your flight.
That is, unless everyone else has CLEAR and TSA Precheck.
This shouldn’t be a shocker at Atlanta airport, which is the center of the Delta Airlines universe. Delta provides free CLEAR membership to Diamond Medallion members and discounts for all other SkyMiles members. The most any Delta member has to pay for a yearly membership is $119. If you only fly a few times a year (or have a card that pays for CLEAR membership), signing up for the program is a no-brainer.
While I knew this, the other CLEAR passengers had apparently never experienced a line at the checkpoint. Here’s what I found at 9 AM on a Sunday.
I’d already made it through the first switchback when taking this picture of the queue for CLEAR at ATL.
From the comments of people entering the line, it appeared to be a personal affront for them to have to stand in line. Why did they pay $100 to stand in line like everyone else? Some people left the line to stand in the regular TSA Precheck lane, which was many times longer.
I timed it. Do you want to know how long I stood in line for the CLEAR lane at ATL airport?
That’s the amount of time some people felt was unreasonable since they had paid for preferred access.
I’ll admit that I’ve never had to wait for more than 3 people for the CLEAR lanes at Orlando Airport. But that’s a different situation, with most passengers being leisure travelers who only take occasional trips; lots of them don’t have CLEAR membership. Traveling through Atlanta airport on a Sunday, you’re bound to be amongst many business travelers headed out for the next week of work on the road.
Given, they weren’t the ones I saw complaining. It was the ones who got free CLEAR membership with their $695 AMEX Platinum Card and expected to receive red carpet service.
News Flash – CLEAR isn’t a premium service. The price point makes sense for anyone who’s a regular traveler to apply for membership and skip the TSA document checkpoint. Paying for CLEAR doesn’t mean that you’ll get to jump the line at every airport. However, it allows you not to pull out your driver’s license to get past the checkpoint.
I’m confident that my 12-minute wait in the CLEAR/TSA Precheck line was shorter than the TSA Precheck line. The CLEAR line might have been shorter but then I’d have to go through the regular security line and remove my shoes and belt, along with taking my laptop from my carry-on bag. No, thank you.
Post-pandemic travel means having to deal with new problems. And yes, that includes waiting for 12 whole minutes to have a machine scan your irises, match your identity to your boarding pass and clear you through the government security checkpoint. Small sacrifices.
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