The major selling point of CLEAR Plus, the privately-run trusted traveler program, is that members are able to move through airport security more quickly by avoiding the identity verification steps all other travelers face at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints. But an impending change could make CLEAR significantly less useful … at least for now.
The TSA has long conducted random ID checks for CLEAR Plus members, but it began stepping them up after a security incident last July, the Washington Post reported. And just this month, it's increasing those random ID checks even more, according to the report.
But eventually, all CLEAR Plus members will be subject to the same TSA ID checks as all other travelers, including those enrolled in TSA PreCheck, a TSA spokesperson confirmed to Thrifty Traveler on Friday.
“All Registered Traveler participants will be required to present ID, whether physical or digital, to TSA’s Credential Authentication Technology (CAT), with the timeline for implementation to be determined,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Currently, CLEAR Plus members use fingerprint or iris scans to confirm their identity at one of the dedicated CLEAR kiosks, then are whisked to the front of either the general security or TSA PreCheck line by a CLEAR ambassador. Unless they are randomly selected, they don't have to have their ID checked by a TSA agent before going through the screening process.
The TSA spokesperson didn't disclose an explicit reason for the impending change, but said in a statement that “accurate and reliable verification of passenger identity is foundational to aviation security and effective screening by TSA.”
At $189 for a year, the price of a CLEAR Plus membership is steep compared to just $78 for five years of TSA PreCheck – and the difference in what you get with each program is becoming less.
CLEAR Plus is intended to save members time at security, but with more and more people signing up for the program, some are finding themselves waiting in lines just to use the kiosks. Having to check the IDs of all CLEAR Plus members could create more bottlenecks at airport security – and increase overall wait times for all passengers.
For its part, CLEAR said it is working with federal agencies to implement “new, industry-wide digital identity standards.”
“The implementation of these new standards will digitally transmit a passenger’s identifying information from CLEAR to next-generation TSA hardware at airport checkpoints and avoid any need for passengers to show their IDs,” a CLEAR spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to rolling this out in the future to create an even more seamless, secure traveler experience while avoiding disruption for passengers as travel continues to surge.”
Until that happens, though, this new TSA requirement will eliminate much of the value of having CLEAR Plus and could create bottlenecks in CLEAR Plus lanes in airports across the nation.