Airport security takes long enough without unprepared bunglers holding up the line. Take control of your airport experience and stop wasting time at checkpoints.
Here are three programs for expedited security clearance so you can spend less time inching through congested queues and more time kicking back in lounges or catching a few preflight Z’s at the gate.
|Who runs it||CLEAR: privately run clearance program working with the TSA||TSA, for domestic flights only||Under US Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler’s Program|
|Application Requirements||US citizens and Permanent Residents||US citizens and Permanent Residents||US citizens and Permanent Residents|
|Application Fees||$179 annual fee, with corporate and military discounts||Free||One-time, non-refundable $100 application fee|
|How to Apply||Apply online through CLEAR. Applications have to be finished in person at an enrollment center||No application.
Selected airlines choose specific frequent fliers to voluntarily join.
Also available to members of Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS
|Start application online through US Customs. Finish with an in-person interview by US CBP official.|
|Where it Works||Domestic flights: security lines||Domestic flights: security lines||International flights: Customs into the US|
|How It Works||You get a CLEARcard that gets you access to exclusive security lines, shortening your security check waiting time||Your information is pre-embedded in your boarding pass, and you get access to expedited security checkpoints. No need to take out your clothes, shoes, or laptops.||You present your passport to a Global Entry kiosk when entering any of the listed airports, domestic and international. The kiosk reads all your information, speeding you through Customs.|
|How Many Airports Offer the Program||5 (MCO, DEN, SFO, DFW and HPN)||26 and growing. See the full list here||40 and growing. See full list here.|
|Extra Benefits||Your membership covers your kids under 18||Your membership covers your kids under 12||Global Entry has added certain airports in Canada and Ireland, so you can speed through their customs as well.
Global Entry also gives you access to the TSA Pre-Check program at no additional cost.
|Drawbacks||CLEAR already went bankrupt once in 2010. But they are now back and still honor previous memberships. 2nd time’s the charm?||Only available to 5 airlines’ frequent fliers: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways
Pilot program: may not last
|You have access to expedited Customs clearance in other countries as well—if you apply to their programs. Current countries with partner programs are Canada (NEXUS), Australia (SmartGate), South Korea (SES), Mexico (SENTRI) and the Netherlands (Flux).|
|Bottom Line||If you fly a lot to and from those specific airports where CLEAR is offered—then go for it. Otherwise, $179 is a steep price to pay for a couple extra minutes.||Go for it—if you are eligible. It’s not open for the public, but if you get invited, definitely sign up.||If you travel internationally a lot, then yes, Global Entry will save you loads of time at Customs. If you fly into one of their partner countries, run, don’t walk, to join this program.|
If you are a frequent flyer, definitely check these programs out to see which one fits your travel needs best. If you are an occasional flyer, the high enrollment fees outweigh the benefits of saving a couple minutes here and there.
Have you tried any of these programs? Let us know in the comments!