Ask Cranky: Is the Clear Program Worthwhile?

Thank you for submitting your questions after the inaugural Ask Cranky column. Please keep them coming . . .

Dear Cranky,

I’ve been reading you a while and I wonder what your experience/opinion is of the Clear program that is now in place at 17 US airports?

Thanks – Bill

Ah yes, the Clear program. This question is very timely since they raised price by more than 50% today. What I originally expected to be a trusted traveler program has become nothing more than a security fast pass. If you’re a member, you can skip to the head of the line. Don’t believe me? Here are the five benefits as listed by Clear.

  • Get through security faster, in under four minutes.
  • Don’t worry about unpredictably long lines.
  • Access a designated security lane with special benefits.
  • Allow our attendants and concierges to help you as you go through the Clear lane.
  • Use your Clear card at airports nationwide.

Ask CrankyFor those keeping score, four of the five just mean that you get to head to the front of the class. The other point does mention that they have attendants to help you get through security. But what it doesn’t say is anything about separate screening equipment or an expedited screening regimen. No, all this does is let you cut in line.

So, let’s start with who doesn’t need this. If you are an elite member with one airline and don’t fly other airlines often or you fly in premium cabins, you probably get the same benefits already. If you’re an infrequent traveler, you’re not going to be able to justify the formerly $128 fee and now whopping $199 for the first year. And if you don’t fly primarily out of one of the 21 Clear airports, then you won’t get any use out of this either.

BUT, if you are one of the few who fly often and aren’t an elite member or you fly on a variety of airlines, this might be interesting for you because it will speed up the security process. Since they aren’t in any LA airports, I’ve never seriously considered it, but even if they were I doubt I’d do it. If you’d like to learn a little more, Benet Wilson has been covering this a lot over at Towers and Tarmacs, including the launch of Clear in Atlanta.

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