United Airlines & CLEAR Announce Awesome New Partnership

Filed Under: Security/TSA, United

Woot! It looks like we can soon expect discounted or free CLEAR memberships for more people, and we can also expect CLEAR to expand to more US airports.

What is CLEAR?

I’m a huge fan of CLEAR, which I’ve now had for a couple of years. CLEAR is a service that can save you a lot of time at airport security, in addition to TSA Pre-Check.

The benefit of being a CLEAR member is that instead of lining up to have your ID checked in the regular line or Pre-Check line, you can go to the CLEAR line, scan your fingerprints, and then you’re escorted past the ID checker. With TSA Pre-Check lines sometimes being longer than the regular lines nowadays, this lets you skip the line for having your ID checked.

It doesn’t always save me time, though what I appreciate is that it makes my airport experience consistent. I’m always on my way within a few minutes.

Historically Delta & CLEAR have worked closely together. Not only do SkyMiles members get free or discounted CLEAR memberships, but we see more CLEAR availability at Delta hubs than other hubs.

Well, today it has been announced that yet another airline is partnering with CLEAR.

United & CLEAR announce new partnership

Today United Airlines and CLEAR have announced a new partnership. As part of this, United is also making an equity investment in CLEAR.

There are two aspects to this partnership.

Discounted or free CLEAR memberships for MileagePlus members

This new partnership includes discounted or free CLEAR membership for select US-based MileagePlus members. A CLEAR membership ordinarily costs $179, though with this partnership:

  • Global Services and Premier 1K members will receive a complimentary CLEAR membership
  • Premier Platinum, Gold, and Silver members, as well as most United credit card members, will receive a discounted membership rate of $109
  • All other MileagePlus members will receive a discounted membership rate of $119

Expect CLEAR at more United hubs

CLEAR is already available at United’s hubs in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles.

Not only does this partnership include discounted or free memberships, but the important aspect is that United is making an equity investment in CLEAR that will support bringing CLEAR to United’s hubs in Newark and Houston later this summer, and hopefully Chicago in the coming months.

Comparing the Delta & CLEAR partnership

The pricing that CLEAR is offering United MileagePlus members more or less mirrors what Delta is offering SkyMiles members:

  • Diamond Medallion members receive a complimentary CLEAR membership
  • Platinum, Gold, and Silver members, as well as most Delta credit card members, will receive a discounted membership rate of $109
  • All other SkyMiles members will receive a discounted membership rate of $119

Is there a downside to this partnership?

All things considered I think this is a fantastic development. However, to be balanced I’d note that when an airline partners with CLEAR in this way, you can expect that a lot of people will suddenly be signing up for a CLEAR membership.

When I fly out of an American terminal that has CLEAR it’s a rather “exclusive” experience (in terms of there not being many other people), while at some Delta hubs I’ve felt like a significant percentage of passengers had CLEAR.

So while this is great, if you’re an existing CLEAR member you can expect that the number of people using clear at Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles, is about to increase significantly.

Bottom line

CLEAR is a fantastic innovation, and I’m a fan of anything that allows it to expand to more airports. I would have thought that Delta and CLEAR had some sort of an exclusive agreement, though maybe that recently ran out, so we’re now seeing both Delta and United partner with CLEAR in similar ways.

As usual, that leaves American as the least innovative of the three US carriers. My home airport of Miami has CLEAR, though only in the non-American terminals. I’ve been told by CLEAR representatives at the airport that American has rejected them being added in the American terminal, I guess because American doesn’t like nice things.

Are you excited about the new United & CLEAR partnership?

  1. The vast majority of the time when I use Clear, the process takes more time than it would just using Precheck alone. It has saved me time maybe 20% of the time since I signed up. A waste of money, at least for my travel patterns.

  2. I never got the concept of the CLEAR. Maybe the line is a minute or two shorter than precheck, but the verification (fingerprint scanner, etc.) takes a little time, too.

  3. It is an option, in addition to pre-check, but a problem I can see down the road is that it will become as crowded as pre-check has become, nullifying the benefit.

  4. I signed up for the first version of CLEAR years ago when there was no TSA precheck and CLEAR was available at a large number of airports. They eventually went belly-up. Version 2 of CLEAR is competing against TSA precheck and is not available at as many airports — their own advertising indicates “We’re available at 50+ airports, stadiums, and other venues ” many of which are stadiums not airports.
    My feeling is CLEAR is not something of value for the average flyer. I’ll take my chances with the occasional long precheck line.

  5. I also remember version 1 of CLEAR, particularly the discussion about selling members’ personal information as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. No thanks.

  6. I find it really annoying having these folks cut in front of the PreCheck line. They should separated off to another location.

  7. Why do you like Clear? My understanding is that its *only* benefit over PreCheck is that it’s possible you skip the 5-10 minute PreCheck line (if one exists). For that, you’re giving biometric data to Clear, a private company that’s already gone bankrupt once & almost SOLD off personal data!

  8. They have Clear at DCA, even at the American only Term C. I assume this is a relationship with MWTA since they run Dulles and Reagan though and not with the airlines itself.

  9. I love CLEAR. It saves me a lot of time at MSP where it seems everyone and their uncle has PreCheck but only a relatively few people have CLEAR, even with the DL partnership.

    If only CLEAR would work on their fingerprint and eye scanners. If you have dry skin it won’t read your fingerprints unless you moisten them with lotion, and to use the eye scanner you have to be a very specific distance from the machine. Neither method should be that difficult to use.

  10. Is there a way to pay for this through a United or Delta that triggers the Amex incidentals credit?

  11. I fly 1-2 times a month and rarely see Clear in the airports I travel to. Also I never have to wait long in TSA PreCheck lines. I would only consider Clear if it was available in 80% of the airports I traveled through and if it shaved 5 min off my security process.

  12. Many posters seem to denigrate CLEAR. Try showing up at ATL or especially LAS for a 6 or 7 am flight. It saves a lot of time since TSA Pre is often overrun.

  13. I’m not sure why but last time I was in Denver (mid June) everyone who went through clear had to go into the regular screening queue. Meanwhile, I zipped through preCheck in about 3 minutes. Is this normal, at least on some random interval?

  14. Clear + PreCheck at LAX, and I’m through security in about 30 seconds on average.

    That is using Clear and letting them know that I’m PreCheck so I’m taken to the front of that line.

  15. Supporting the concept of or being a fan of clear is disgusting because it means th as r one supports societal inequalities as long as you’re the one on the top end of that inequality. Horrible world view to have.

  16. I love Clear. What it gives you is predictability of the process. I don’t have to worry if there are 50-100 people in the pre-check line like I’ve sometimes seen at SFO. It’s going to take me 5 minutes to get through security every time.

    I do hope that they staff up even more @ SFO, because you do sometimes have to wait 30-60 seconds there, and this will bump up the membership (although I suspect most SFO based 1K’s already have it).

  17. I pay $99 a year today so as a “benefit” to my Platinum status my cost increases by $10/year. Typical. Well it used to be a nice benefit except I fly mostly out of Houston and they closed the clear checkpoint in the terminal I normally fly out of. A real time saver most of the time when I am able to use it.

  18. Lol. Quite the hyperbole from J. The very act of flying itself is already a privilege enjoyed by only a relatively small fraction of the global population – paying $100 / year for the extra cost of a shorter wait in line if you’re a frequent traveler is hardly what is going to break society.

  19. TSA was testing (on and off) ID scanning at SeaTac. No BP needed, ID is scanned and verified, flight is shown on the screen, on you go. This sped up the ID check and certainly much faster than Clear’s check process. Just like when pre-check started, Clear may have shorter lines now but once more people are in it, those lines will back up too. I usually see people needing help with the authentication process. I know TSA is also trialling facial recognitition. Sometimes I see the contracted pre-check entry line monitors taking longer to check if someone belongs in pre-check than TSA takes to check an ID!

  20. @LF makes a valid point about the CLEAR people cutting the TSA line. I do feel this will make the security lines more of a snarly mess at UA gateways and cause increased tension with CLEAR cutting the line.

    I hope a smart lawyer (like Matthew @Live and Lets Fly) takes them on in court. How is it a private company can buy expedited access into a government screening process?

  21. Clear now provides what used to be a similar level of waiting with just TSA PRE. Clear lines will eventually get much longer at this rate. Then some new fee will come along once again.

  22. While I know digitizing my physical attributes is the future of security, I’m incredibly uncomfortable with this, especially given the technology isn’t accurate.

    No thank you, I will not be volunteering for this any time soon.

  23. Pricing is a joke, only a $10 discount for elite members and Platinums pay the same as a CC holder, which shows you how little UA values Platinum members. Pricing should have been:
    1k/gs: free
    Platinum: $69 or 79
    Gold: $99
    Silver/CC: $109
    Members: $119

  24. Pricing for elites is higher then what Delta charged for non elites last year and this which was 99 a year
    I echo others in most airports it takes longer to get through clear than the TSA especially if there is a small line at clear
    Waste of money except in San Francisco and the rare other airport like Minneapolis etc
    So I guess it depends where u fly out of

  25. I just don’t get why security lines are always so long at Us airports? As someone who travels between the US and Europe frequently, I’m never worried about security queues in Europe but often find myself waiting in TSA lines for 45-75 minutes in the US (not always, but often). I can’t help but thinking that if they cut TSA Pre and Clear and just staffed all counters the whole process would always be a breeze, just as in all other developed nations, without anyone having to pay? They could probably get the same income by just staffing premium passenger fast tracks and let the airlines pay to use them?

  26. @ Mike — Because the government/TSA/other security contractor only controls the process beginning at the ID check stand. The airports (in partnership with the airlines) own the queue, and are thus allowed to structure it however they want, including having separate lines for crew, elites, families, wheelchair users, folks named “Joe”, people who pay for a front-of-line pass, or any other mechanism they choose.

  27. Lukas, your experience is different than mine. Schiphol is generally a disaster when I’m there. Frankfurt is hit-or-miss. Some US airports are better than others.

    Part of the problem is that they never redesigned the security process or spaces in the US after 9/11, so a lot more is happening in the same small space. In certain airports, redesigned security halls are finally coming online in the US. A lot of Europe didn’t have this problem because airport security was changed fairly radically there in the late 70s/early 80s after European airports became more frequent terror targets.

  28. No one has discussed the fact that by using CLEAR you no longer need to flash an ID to the TSA. I really like this as you won’t be scrambling for usable ID in case you lose a wallet or purse. That coupled with skipping the ID check line make it very valuable for me and reduces my airport stress a lot. Usually I’m through security in an average of 5 minutes most times I’ve used it.

  29. I’ll sign-up since I’m 1K and it’s free, however the privatization of public goods and services is getting out of hand. This is no different than highway express lanes: those with disposable income can skip the lines/traffic, those without…well you’re SOL!

    The TSA should already be doing this, not outsourcing to a for-profit company.

  30. I’m tired of maintaining all these programs and trouble shooting the glitches. So I don’t think I’ll enroll. I’ve often wondered if clearing security should be tied to your flight time. For instance you can arrive when you like but you’re only allowed to enter security 1 hour before boarding. So the staffing could be very precise as they should know exactly how many passengers are on those planes. If there is capacity at security a standby queue could be cleared earlier than 1 hour…with text notification.

  31. Denver CLEAR lines will not get significantly longer. United has been a primary hub there for decades, and they were one of the early airports to get CLEAR. Anyone flying in/out of Denver frequently enough to have status with United likely already decided to sign up for CLEAR or not. A moderate discount may have a slight increase, but probably nothing most people will notice.
    As for those on here who question its value, it’s entirely subjective. If you travel once a month or more, you get tired of long lines. The advantage for me is using their biometric identification and not having to take my ID completely out of my wallet and wrestle it back in for TSA agents. Scan your boarding pass and your fingerprint/iris. Tah-dah, you get escorted up and waived right on through.

  32. @AW, ah, okay. Never been to AMS and almost always connect in Munich with LH. My home airport is ARN and I usually connect in CPH, OSL, VIE, MUC or IST and all those are always a breeze (albeit in fast tracks where availiable). I don’t think I’ve ever waited more than 15 minutes and I’m usually through in 1-4 minutes. In the US I mostly fly out and in of IAD, IAH, MIA, LAX, SFO and ORD and it’s always a mess (especially immigration). I count myself lucky if I’m through within an hour.

  33. Matthew at Live and Let’s Fly has a law degree, but he hasn’t passed any bar exams in any state so he’s not a lawyer.

  34. I’m a big fan of Clear; as another poster pointed out, the value proposition is *predictability*. I used to live near SFO, and the first few times I used it in tandem with PreCheck, I was indeed chagrined to see that the regular PreCheck line would only have taken a couple of minutes to get through. Then I showed up on a morning when the system was overwhelmed. Lines snaking through the terminal lobby. Tempers flaring. And I just casually strolled up to the Clear line and zipped through, because I had planned ahead. (See Aesop’s fable, “The Ant and the Grasshopper.”)

    Another poster suggested that “[s]upporting the concept of or being a fan of clear is disgusting because it means th as r one supports societal inequalities as long as you’re the one on the top end of that inequality. Horrible world view to have.” Oddly, this is also a common view on FlyerTalk, which surprises me, since the posters there typically tend toward the Libertarian end of the spectrum. I’d argue this view is misguided, since:

    1) It’s really just about providing a fee-for-service model for very frequent travelers. If you only go to the airport once a year, spending 20 minutes in a queue might not be a big deal. But if you do it once a week or even once a month, it’s a very different story.

    2) It’s only $10/month. While there are certainly households for whom that would be a hardship, anyone who is into miles & points who likes the concept but finds the amount onerous should consider another hobby.

  35. Jdub – I travel once a month, or more… I signed up for Clear late last year I believe. Here are issued I have run in to

    1) Clear not being available at the airport I am traveling to
    2) Clear requiring an extra step which increases wait times – going to the Clear area to get verified, having the machine attempt to scan you (with a few misreads), having someone walk you over to the already empty TSA pre-check line, etc, often adds an extra couple of minutes
    3) Passengers blocking your way (sometimes times intentionally) when the Clear guy tries to bring you to the front of the line

    I travel a lot for work but purposely avoid peak airport times as I can often choose what time I travel, and I have gotten little to no use out of Clear. I won’t be renewing unless some credit card or elite program offers it to me for free, and even then, I will only use it when truly necessary.

  36. This article reminded me that I should check to see when my Clear renews and at what rate. I got a Delta Gold Medallion discount when I signed up and I guess I am grandfathered into that rate. “Your full membership subscription, including travel, sports and arenas, automatically renews on 08/13/2019 at $79.00.” Even at $79.00, I am debating if it is worth it to renew. The only significant time it has saved me was not having to wait as long in direct sunlight to get in Yankee Stadium. In the airport, several times I have walked right by the Clear agent because there was no line at PreCheck. Even when it does save me time at the airport, it is not like it saves enough time to really make a difference. It is not likely Clear will be difference between making a flight and not. An extra couple of minutes waiting at the gate or in a lounge doesn’t have a whole lot a value to me.

  37. I have 1K status until 31 January 2020 but am not going to requalify. If I register now, how long is the CLEAR membership valid for? Is there an advantage to waiting to register for CLEAR until later this year (or in January of next year) as opposed to registering now?

  38. I had Clear when it was first introduced. I did not like cutting to the front of the TSA luggage inspection line. It felt rude and elitist, so I stopped using it.

  39. “It’s really just about providing a fee-for-service model for very frequent travelers.”

    Or maybe it’s really just about expanding and entrenching the idea that every little courtesy now comes with an every increasing surcharge. What you either can’t see or choose to ignore is that Clear brings an order of magnitude increase in costs for skipping the sickly peasant line. Will you still be claiming that it’s no big deal when CLEAR becomes CLOG™ and the next faster priority service comes with yet another order of magnitude increase in cost?

  40. In support of AMS, (and I am 1K), you have priority security check and they now have new equipment where you do not have to take out anything from your luggage. I fly from there to ORD or IAH every month and had no longer wait times than a few minutes so far even in peak season. Passport control is a different story (no priority for anyone), but even that is usually no longer than 5-10 min.

  41. I almost signed up recently just to have and we able to choose the shorter line. So glad I didn’t as now it is free as 1k. Awesome.

  42. I tried Clear and gave it up. They don’t have a separate line for going through the scanners so they “escort” you to butt into the TSA Pre-check line. Those who have been waiting are not happy and you are subject to a lot of dirty looks. I don’t blame them. They waited in that line and then some yahoo gets placed in front of them. They really need to have their own scanner line if they want it to work.

  43. Let’s see if all these partnerships can save them… again.

    They’re working towards their second bankruptcy.

  44. Baltimore has CLEAR also. If your company requires you to fly to SF it’s a time saver for sure. Ditch the l-o-n-g precheck line for departing a.m. flights. Denver’s a nightmare too without CLEAR. Get and use it-

  45. Free CLEAR is one of the best perks of Delta DM status. Where it is available it is fantastic. And its a perk Delta can’t mess with. If CLEAR is open, you get it. No being kept in suspense like with complimentary and global upgrades. Surprising that Delta’s lawyers did not get exclusivity, or maybe CLEAR was too smart for that and demanded too high a price for that.

    CLEAR improves the airport experience, and that is where Delta is now turning to further thrash it Big 3 partners who seem strangely eager to do Delta’s bidding like on Open Skies.

    American Airlines…what can you say?

  46. @Tiffany. Thanks for the info. Very helpful.

    You do a great job by the way. Thanks for your hard work.

  47. @Benjamin, do you have any data that Clear is heading towards bankruptcy? It’s an honest question. I haven’t seen their financials.

    I got clear to use at ATL after thinking there was no point since I have pre-check And now I LOVE it.

  48. First, I have no problem if the CLEAR customers cut into the TSA-Pre line in front of me. They paid for the privilege, I did not. I could but don’t intend to.

    Second: as it was mentioned a number of times: it depends on your own situation and the airport you fly out of. My home-airport is Brussels and as a Lufthansa HON I get to use the fast lane. It never takes more than 5 minutes – well, ok, maybe on a Friday afternoon at 4. In Frankfut I get to use the Lufthansa First Class Terminal Security and in other Lufthansa hubs teh Fast Lane. Even in Dulles TSA Pre is gardly ever much longer than CLEAR.

    For me this is not really interesting – but, again, this depends on the personal situation.

    What I really like os Global Entry. Immigration in a matter of seconds. Last time flying into Dulles a colleague of mine had to wait more than two hours in line. I already had a couple of beers at the hotel bar before he showed up. Yesterday at LAX: again I had to wait for my suitcase – after immigration that is. And my record: New York JFK: from on-block to Airtrain in 8 minutes, carry-on only, of course.

    Now that’s a time saver.

  49. I am Platimum on UA and Silver on DL (was Gold last year). I previously associated my Delta account with Clear. When I contacted them today to switch my affiliation from Delta to United they advised me that my United fee would be $109, but my Delta fee is $79, which surprised me and is not what Ben listed. I told them to leave it as it is for now.

  50. Atlanta is the clearest case for using Clear. At 6am and 5pm, saves a lot of time. Other airports, less needed, but as many said, does deliver consistency.

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