With the airport-security fiasco seemingly ever-present in the news, much has been made of the benefits to be had from enrolling in the TSA’s PreCheck trusted-traveler program. Even for occasional flyers, the savings in time and aggravation can be well worth the $85 fee for five years of relatively speedy security clearance.
Rarely included in that conversation has been another trusted-traveler program: CLEAR. Like PreCheck, CLEAR prescreens travelers. And once enrolled, CLEAR travelers also have access to a dedicated security line. Unlike PreCheck participants, however, CLEAR members must still take off their shoes and jackets and remove their laptops to clear the checkpoint. Unless, of course, they’re also PreCheck members.
So yes, there’s some overlap with PreCheck. The biggest difference between the two is their availability. Where PreCheck is practically ubiquitous, CLEAR is only offered at 14 airports. That, in conjunction with its $179 annual membership fee, goes a long way toward explaining the service’s lack of uptake by travelers.
Apparently undaunted by CLEAR’s rather iffy value proposition, Delta is now offering discounted and free annual memberships to members of its SkyMiles program, as follows:
- Membership for non-elite SkyMiles members: $99
- Membership for Silver, Gold, Platinum SkyMiles members: $79
- Membership for Diamond SkyMiles members: free
Deal or No Deal
What’s in it for Delta’s customers? Strangely, not much.
As far as overlap with Delta’s main hub airports goes, there’s none. CLEAR is not available at Atlanta, not at Cincinnati, not at Detroit, not at Minneapolis-St. Paul, not at Seattle.
Delta’s promise of better things to come is too vague to offer much in the way of reassurance: “This year, Delta and CLEAR plan to expand airport security line access points to Delta’s U.S. hub airports.”
Cost-wise, even with the SkyMiles discounts, CLEAR is more expensive than PreCheck. And even when free, CLEAR might not be a deal, given the required investment of time to visit a CLEAR office to complete the screening process.
Whether discounted or not, CLEAR simply isn’t a compelling proposition.
Reader Reality Check
CLEAR: Yea or nay?
After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.
This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.