Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Speeding through security: CLEAR to expand to LAS

CLEAR, a service that employs advanced biometric identity verification to speed travelers through airport security, announced June 20 that it would launch its service at Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport (LAS) this summer, with a target date of mid-August.

“McCarran is the tenth airport offering our services,” Caryn Seidman Becker, CLEAR CEO said in a statement announcing the expansion. “CLEAR and McCarran are dedicated to creating the safest and most efficient experience possible for travelers departing this world-renowned destination.”

Verifying identity via fingerprint
at CLEAR kiosk
Certified by the Department of Homeland Security as Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology, CLEAR members use biometric identifiers – specifically, fingerprints and irises – to verify their identity and allow them expedited security screening at a handful of major US airports as well as smaller facilities across the country. In those locations where CLEAR services are available, they are "closely integrated with TSA’s Pre-Check," according to the company, which adds that CLEAR members typically get through airport checkpoints in less than five minutes.

CLEAR currently operates at San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC), Denver (DEN), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Houston Bush (IAH), Houston Hobby (HOU), San Antonio (SAT), Orlando (MCO), and Westchester County Airport in New York (HPN). CLEAR currently has more than 300,000 members nationwide and has been used almost two million times by travelers, according to company materials.

Travelers can enroll at any of CLEAR’s enrollment centers. More information is available on CLEAR’s website at http://www.clearme.com.

CLEAR kiosk vs. security lines.
CLEAR membership costs $179 a year for unlimited use by an individual and can be used regardless of which airline the member is flying.

Members can add their spouse or partner for an additional $50, and children under 18 can accompany CLEAR members through the CLEAR lane without the need for a CLEAR card of their own.

A video demonstration of how CLEAR works is available here.

While CLEAR offers its members the advantage of bypassing often-lengthy lines leading to TSA agents, it does not offer any special treatment when it comes to the actual screening. CLEAR members are still subject to the same TSA regulations and must follow the same procedures as travelers who are not CLEAR members.

Those who travel regularly between airports where CLEAR is available may find the service beneficial. For others, TSA’s Pre-Check service could prove more broadly usable, is available at a lower cost, and offers a streamlined security screening. Those who travel internationally may also want to consider enrolling in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry program. For $15 more for its five-year validity, Global Entry provides access to TSA Pre-Check lines in the U.S. and expedited processing when returning from outside the borders of the U.S.

Pre-Check is available at 118 airports nationwide for travelers who use one of nine participating North American airlines and are either selected through their airline's frequent flier program or who have a “known traveler number” (KTN). Travelers using Pre-Check do not have to remove their belts, shoes, and light outerwear or jacket, nor do they have to remove their 3-1-1 compliant bag or laptop from their carry-on luggage. As a result, they often benefit from "quicker transit through airport security screening, faster moving lines [and an] improved travel experience," according to TSA.

Those benefits may fade as more travelers obtain KTNs and access to Pre-Check, resulting in longer lines; however, barring a change in procedure (which even TSA admits is always a possibility), not having to unpack and undress before going through security will still be a time-saver for all concerned.

Travelers who prefer obtaining a KTN over playing the frequent-flier lottery can apply in person or complete an initial application via the TSA web site. The non-refundable application fee is $85 and, once issued, the known traveler number is valid for five years. Airlines that currently participate in the Known Traveler program include Air Canada, Alaska (NYSE:AAG), American (NYSE:AAL), Delta (NYSE:DAL), Hawaiian (NYSE:HA), JetBlue (NYSE:JBLU), Southwest (NYSE:LUV), Sun Country, United (NYSE:UAL), and Virgin America.

Each traveler will have to determine which program works best for them. Regardless, those who travel by air frequently will likely find the time (and aggravation) saved well worth the dollars spent.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos courtesy of CLEAR
Click on images to view larger size

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