Wednesday, May 20

The Clear Card: How much is your airport time worth?

I stumbled on this strange, strange idea that they call the Clear Card.

Basically, the company centers around one aspect of modern life: airport security lines. Rather than wait in the security line like the rest of the mortals, Clear Card members go to a kiosk. You hand your card to the attendant, who has the machine check your fingerprints, scan your iris, and check your picture.

Once it's clear that you are, in fact, you, well then you are directed to a Clear Lane. It is a passage that can only be used by Clear Card members. Bags are still scanned, etc. But the losers waiting a whole 15 minutes in the security lines will watch in envy as you glide through the process, unencumbered by a wait of any kind.

So how much would this life-saving service cost? Why, a mere $199 for one year!

But don't let that seemingly steep price dissuade you: There are discounts. Why, if you sign up for a second year, the cost is only $358. That's a $40 savings! How it could not be worthwhile?!

Still a little freaked about the price? Well, bring the whole family in on the deal:

  • 2 family members are $329 -- a savings of $60
  • 3 costs just $459 ($138 saved)
  • 4 is $589 (a $207 discount)
  • 5 is $719 ($276 off)

You're practically losing money by not buying them! (Except, of course, for the fact that most families of 4 & 5 don't actually travel all that much.)

Suppose, however, you're not traveling with family. Certainly, even in this economy, plenty of people routinely fly on business. It's easy to imagine how the value of time saved would add up. Over the course of the membership, you could argue that $199 was worthwhile.

This is definitely an argument that could be made. After all, a whopping 15 cities already accept the Clear Card. So you'll save time all over the place. I mean, how many businessmen and women fly to places other than Reno-Tahoe, Salt Lake City, Denver, Little Rock, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Orlando, Louisville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Washington DC, Albany, Westchester and Boston.

Even better, every airport has slightly different times of operation. So you get to experience that special tingle we all get from games of chance: Will the service I paid $199 for actually be open for business? It's like Christmas, every single time.

Of course, the numbers of cities and the cost of memberships don't come close to telling the whole story. The Clear Card is a membership that comes with its fair share of perks.

For example, if you sign up for 2+ years, you automatically receive a subscription to Travel + Leisure. Given the offer on the magazine's website, that's a $12 value! So, right, there, you've recouped 3% of your initial outlay.

And if you sign up at a portal through Delta Air Lines, you get 1,500 SkyMiles. That will get you 5% of the way to a free flight on Delta (30,000 SkyMiles). No, sirree, you can't beat that! Unless, of course, you sign up for Netflix through Delta. Then you get 2,500 SkyMiles.

Still not convinced? Okay Doubting Thomas. We hear you. We understand. So for those commitment phobes out there, you can have a trial, 6-month membership for only $89.

So what are you all waiting for? Get to that website and sign up today!


Blogger Shtinkykat said...

I put this in the same category as the airport lounges and private jets. If you can afford to pay to avoid some of the inconveniences of modern travel, by all means do so. But for the rest of us mere mortals, we'll just arrive earlier and sit with screaming babies in the waiting room.

May 20, 2009 at 5:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real value doesn't come from skipping the line. Lines are annoying, sure, but most people can deal. The value comes in being able to stay an extra 30 minutes at your client's office to squeeze in an extra meeting, knowing you'll still make your flight. If you're a consultant flying 150,000 miles a year and you live or work in Atlanta, it's a great deal - especially if your firm or your client picks up the cost. Otherwise, meh.

May 20, 2009 at 9:28 AM

Blogger Revanche said...

I'm pretty sure that San Jose has this as well, but I have never ever seen anyone use it. Even when the lines were backed up around corners, down the hall and practically down the escalator, the attendants just stand there looking bored. And you know what? 99% of the time, you wouldn't even need it because the security line goes so quickly anyway!

*shrug* I wonder if they're breaking even on the concept yet?

May 20, 2009 at 4:27 PM


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