Airport CLEAR program makes a comeback

Remember the CLEAR registered traveler program? Those who shelled out $179 per year got a special bio-metric membership card, which provided access to exclusive, shorter security lines at 21 airports across the country.

While CLEAR won the hearts and wallets of its customers, it struggled with debt and demand and abruptly shut down last June.

In recent months, a new company called Alclear announced an agreement to purchase the assets of the old company (Verified Identity Pass) and crank the operation back up.

Alclear’s first move was to update the web site, which had been dormant. The revived site encourages previous, new, or just curious travelers to fill out a form and vote on which airports where they’d like to see the service. (The site updated again on June 25 with more new info.)

CLEAR says that it will be in both Denver and Orlando later this fall. Prior to shut down, CLEAR was at all three Bay Area airports, OAK, SFO and SJC. But don’t get your hopes up for a quick return. The new company has to sign all new airport agreements, a process which could take quite a while. The site says, “We are in discussions with multiple airports to re-introduce CLEAR,” but does not mention any airports by name. Company president Ken Cornick told The BAT that all three Bay Area airports are targeted to get the service back, but he could not offer any more specifics.

(This post appeared first in The BAT blog for Bay Area frequent travelers. Sign up for The BAT today!)

The site’s FAQs also state that the new company will honor previous members’ remaining membership terms as of June 2009. (For example, those who had three months left in their term will get three months free membership.)It also says that old card will still work…so don’t throw them away!

In what appears to a bungled first step, this week Alclear sent out a confusing and unwieldy email (two full pages, 1200 words) to former members. The gist of the tome was to ask those former members who DO NOT want back in to send the new company a letter (via snail mail) asking to “opt-out” of the new program and have their data destroyed. (Here’s the full email.) Cornick told The BAT he was regretful, but said that this communication procedure was mandated by courts and privacy lawyers and they had to maintain a hands off approach.

Anyway… I was a former member of CLEAR and must admit that the service paid for itself, but not because it actually saved me all that much time. As an elite level member of several frequent flyer programs, I already had access to shorter, faster security lines.

What CLEAR did was remove the uncertainty from the airport screening process- here at Bay Area airports as well as in other airports that don’t have special elite lines, or those that have unpredictable wait times. To me, as a frequent business traveler, that kind of peace of mind was worth $179.

So, frequent travelers, what do you think? Would you sign up again or for the first time?

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