Sunday, July 31, 2016

"It’s almost like you’re paying to get out of jail" (paying for a service that lets you avoid TSA lines at the airport)

We all know that time is money and that there are things we would rather do than wait in the TSA line at the airport. So if the opportunity cost of your time is high, and you travel often, you might want to pay to avoid these lines.

See The Airport Security Shortcut That Isn’t PreCheck: Clear, a private trusted-traveler program, is expanding thanks to longer TSA lines and a Delta linkup by Scott McCartney of the WSJ. Excerpts:
"Would you pay $10 to $15 a month for a guaranteed cut to the front of some crowded airport security lines, even ahead of PreCheck members and first-class passengers?

Clear is a private trusted-traveler program sanctioned by the Transportation Security Administration. It has lanes at only 13 airports—San Francisco, Denver and Orlando, Fla., among them.

Once enrolled, members go to Clear’s faster lane instead of TSA and have their identity verified by fingerprint or iris scan. Then they go straight to the X-ray machine."

"Clear doesn’t do background checks. It verifies identity by checking passports or driver’s licenses, plus specific questions on past history similar to credit-application type queries. Enrollment can be done in a few minutes. Clear originally issued cards, but now just identifies members by the fingerprints, iris scans and photographs it collects.

At checkpoints, Clear employees verify identity, check boarding passes through TSA’s system, then carry the Clear member’s bags to the X-ray machine belt. All Clear members still go through physical screening.

The cost of such privilege is $179 a year, but Clear does offer discounts, such as a current $59 Groupon for a nine-month membership. Family members are $50 and children under 18 are free. Delta says it will offer free Clear memberships to its diamond-level frequent fliers shortly and discounted rates for all members of its SkyMiles frequent-flier program."

"Some travelers say the certainty of not having to wait in TSA lines at airports with a Clear station allows them to schedule more meetings on business trips or spend more time at the beach. They can show up at the airport only a few minutes before flights start boarding.

“It’s almost like you’re paying to get out of jail,” says John Ormesher, a Florida-based semiconductor distributor who travels frequently for business and pleasure and signed up for Clear in January 2015. He’s loved it so far. “As PreCheck has gotten more and more crowded, it really is nice, because if there are 25 or 30 or 50 people in a PreCheck line, we jump right ahead of all those folks,” Mr. Ormesher says."

"TSA monitors and inspects Clear but doesn’t share data. The agency says getting cleared by Clear only means you go to front of the travel document check line. At some airports, TSA lets travelers verified by Clear go right to screening. At others, TSA officers double-check boarding passes after Clear."

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