For $179 a Year, Is Clear Worth It?

Airport security is an integral and essential part of air travel.  Whether or not you believe the TSA to be useful or security theater, it’s here to stay.  Before any passenger can go airside, they must pass through airport security.  There’s no way past it.  Unfortunately, because every single passenger must pass through a TSA security checkpoint, passengers often find themselves standing in long lines for long periods of time.  This has been a constant concern for travelers ever since airport security was created.  However, more than a decade since the Transportation Security Administration was established, airport security remains inefficient at some major U.S. airports.  But there are ways to bypass these massive and irritating lines at security screening checkpoints.

Enter: Clear Security Screening

Founded in 2005, Clear security was part of the United States registered traveler program.  The original security program was implemented at a handful of small to mid-sized airports across the country.  In 2009, after a very turbulent four years, the first program filed for bankruptcy.  That same year, Allclear LLC. bought Clear and revived the program.

Today Clear security operates at the following airports:

AustinAustin International (AUS)
BaltimoreBaltimore-Washington (BWI)
DallasDallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
DenverDenver International (DEN)
DetroitDetroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
HoustonHouston Intercontinental (IAH)
HoustonHouston Hobby (HOU)
Las VegasLas Vegas International Airport (LAS)
MiamiMiami International (MIA)
New YorkWestchester County Airport (HPN)
OrlandoOrlando International (MCO)
San AntonioSan Antonio International (SAT)
San FranciscoSan Francisco International (SFO)
San JoseSan Jose Airport (SJC)
SeattleSeattle-Tacoma International (SEA)
Washington DCWashington-Dulles (IAD)
Washington DCWashington Regan-National (DCA)

That’s a nice chunk of airports.  Additionally, Clear hopes to land at Chicago airports, Pittsburgh International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport in the near future.  Unfortunately, the service is not available at any international airports at the moment.

But What is Clear?

Sure, Clear serves quite a few major international airports but, what is it?  Good question!  Clear is an expedited security service that, according to their website, “will get you through security checkpoints in under five minutes.”

However, Clear isn’t all that it sounds to be.  It’s actually just a priority lane prior to entering the physical screening area.  the program’s kiosks are set-up prior to the TSA security screening area.  Without the expedited service, in order to actually get to security screening, you have to prove your identity and often spend 10, 15, maybe 30 minutes waiting in line.  All Clear does is take the waiting in line part of security out of the equation.  Even with the service, you’ll have to go through traditional TSA security screening.

Clear allows you to cut the line, but that's all it does (Image: Clear)

Clear allows you to cut the line, but that’s all it does. (Image: Clear)

All it does is get you to the front of the line.  There’s no benefit once you get to the screening area.

Now, for many of you who’ve waited in hour-long security lines, that may actually sound like a program you’re interested in.  However, the service comes with a pretty hefty price tag.  While TSAPre Check will set you back $85 for five years, this glorified priority access costs $179 a year.

Personally, Clear isn’t remotely worth it.  Especially as a TSAPre Check passenger, I rarely find myself waiting in any security line that I’d be willing to pay $179 to get out of.  Additionally, as an elite member or premium passenger, you already get to cut the line with priority services.  The whole program makes very little sense.

To make matters worse, the expedited security service isn’t even available at the airports that suffer from long pre-screening lines.  For example, those extreme pre-screening lines you see on the news have occurred at Chicago-O’Hare, Los Angeles, and New York-LaGuardia.  None of those three airports have Clear service available.


A Clear Kiosk at DEN (Image: Clear)

A Clear Kiosk at DEN (Image: Clear)

So, maybe you find yourself waiting in those pre-screening TSA lines for hours. If that’s the case, Clear may very well be worth it.  However, very few passengers–especially frequent flyers and elite passengers, will ever find themselves in that situation.  At $179 a year, is cutting the line really worth it?  As a TSAPre Check member, I can tell you that the longest I’ve waited in line at security was maybe ten minutes at that was a rarity.  Clear is a lot like Priority Access or SkyPriority, both of which can be purchased the day of travel for under $100 in most cases.  So is Clear worth it?  Nope.