When it comes to airport security, it's tough to get excited. Long lines, frustrated passengers, and forgetting to remove your liquids bag are all par for the course. As most of us know, TSA's Precheck program, now a few years old, attempts to speed up the process for frequent travelers who undergo a clearance process to be considered "trusted." We covered your options for how to get TSA Precheck when the program launched, but here's another alternative worth considering: CLEAR.CLEAR has actually been around since 2005, though limited to only in a few cities. In essence, it's a separate security line at partner airports, whose pre-screened members can zoom through and get to their gate in five minutes or less. In the past two months, both Baltimore's BWI airport and Miami's MIA airport have gained CLEAR lines, putting the company in a dozen U.S. airports. (The others are Dallas' DFW, Houston's IAH and HOU, Denver's DEN, Las Vegas' LAS, Orlando's MCO, San Antonio's SAT, San Francisco's SFO, San Jose's SJC, and Westchester County's HPN.)
Yes, competing with TSA's official Precheck regime will be tough -- at this point, Precheck is at nearly ever major U.S. airport (though terminal availability and airline participation still varies). But CLEAR also boasts some peripheral programs that may give it a leg-up. To begin with, thanks to a partnership with the San Francisco Giants, CLEAR members can enter Major League ballparks through a dedicated lane. The company insists that more airports and parks are "on the horizon," and we could certainly see CLEAR's appeal skyrocketing should it ink deals with other venues that host sporting events, concerts, and the like.
In recent months, there have been more and more complaints, too, about Precheck lines getting longer and slower, when travelers who don't understand the program are randomly pulled in. It's gotten so bad, in fact, that the TSA recently announced that they're weaning off that practice. Until that happens, CLEAR's five-minute promise can be pretty tempting. Standard membership runs $179 per year. (Precheck applications cost $85 and Global Entry $100; both memberships last five years.)