Thursday, May 01, 2008

I've been cleared

I've joined the US's Registered Traveler Program. Clear (a subsidiary of Verified Identity Pass Inc.) operates the local facility here at Dulles, so I joined their network.

In exchange for submitting to (and paying for) a background investigation and biometric authentication (fingerprint in my case, though they also had iris scanners there it wouldn't work on me) you get to have a very short security line -- though you still go through the same "take-off-your-shoes" security process. They seem to be working on getting some form of scanner approved for scanning shoes while they are still on your feet, but recently they did not pass the TSA testing that was done.

The cost of the program from Clear is $128 (at least for the first year -- they weren't clear on what subsequent years will cost). $28 of that goes to the TSA for the background investigation and the rest to Clear (of which, I'm sure, a portion goes to the airport). You can extend that by a year when you use a discount code (and the party who gave you the discount code also gets a year -- so there's something in it for everyone. My discount code, if you're interested in getting a free month added to your subscription is: DSCAM1142273 - use it to your hearts content.

One might ask why I would join the program given that I was already a United 1K member and able to use the premium passenger lines at Dulles. There were several reasons including:

  • The premium lines are only available when the flight you a premium member on the flight you are leaving Dulles on. I have seen the staff turn away United premium members when they were booked on some other airline where they did not have status.
  • Even with the premium lines, you can still get stuck in a slow line (I have waited as long as a half hour in the line) and if I'm tight for a flight, that can be too long.
  • The program is available at other airports (though I'm not sure if I'm only able to use it at Clear supported airports or any registered traveler airport) and in particular, San Jose Airport -- which has no premium lines and where the line for early morning flights can be crazy long -- is one of the Clear supported airports.
  • I travel often enough that the time savings, even if small, is worth it (in my opinion).

Of course, about 2 weeks after signing up (and paying), I received an email from Marriott (where I am a Platinum member, of course) with the following offer:

So, after I signed up I found out I could have gotten it for free. I called them expecting to get the "Gosh, I'm sorry, but it's too late now" and was pleasantly surprised to hear "No problem sir, we'll just extend you another year". Good deal!

You might be wondering what I think now that I'm a member. I've used it on 5 of my last 8 flights (Portland International Airport does not yet participate in the Registered Traveler program), nor is it available at foreign airports. In Dulles it's down with the employee security line it workes great -- in fact, the people from Clear are almost too helpful (trying to help gather things ready to go through security). I've timed it with another person who was going through the premium security line and I was about 10 minutes faster then them at a time when the lines were short. In San Francisco the clear area opens at the front end of the regular security line, emptying directly into the xray scanners (so, essentially, you jump to the front of the line).

One thing on the negative side, if you're traveling with people, you can't bring them with you, so either you have to go through the regular lines, or you have to split up. That already happened to me when I was traveling with George on our way to the European Identity Conference in Munich -- that's how I figured out that there was a 10 minute difference (it was an experiment!). Not sure what I'm going to do when I am traveling with my family to England & Ireland this summer -- I don't think my wife will be as easy going about it as George was :-).

All-in-all, I'm a happy customer..... And remember, if you want to sign up, use the discount code "DSCAM1142273" so we both can get a free month :-).

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Pamela said...

Sadly, Canadians need not apply -- of course they don't tell you that until you're 4 screens into the application process...

Superpat said...

Re flying with the family... What I did last weekend on a family trip to San Diego was to drop everyone else off so they could get in the regular line, then go park the minivan, get the bus back, and go through the Clear line. They beat me to the gate, but only by a few minutes, and it seemed like an optimal way to do things.

TEF said...

My company looked at this when it wsa first announced, but at that time the cost was projected to be $300+/year, so we decided it ws not worth it as a reimbursable benefit to our frequent travelers.

I also use IAD as my home base, and on those rare occasions that I was not flying on United, I was able to flash my Premier Exec card and still use the premium line. Your mileage may vary.

As a Hilton Diamond member, I need to let them know what Marriott is doing. As a freebie, I'd definitely take advantage of it! Alas, I am only Gold with Marriott.