Monday, September 25, 2017


Baby Flyer enjoys her upgrade on the flight up.  AA has put some updated 737s on the LAX-SEA route with IFE.

After another beautiful and peaceful weekend visiting our family on Whidbey Island enjoying the big trees, tidal flats, and starry nights, I once again find myself in the SEA Centurion Lounge.  It's not a bad place to be.  The staff is friendly, food is more than adequate for a domestic lounge, and the drinks are top shelf (plus the services of a bartender who makes a killer margarita, along with just about everything else).  I'll even give them a pass on having 'sexual healing' on the lounge playlist.

Checking out the sand and shells.

I've also cleared my upgrades both up and back this weekend, and made it to the airport in decent time despite having some serious traffic on the 405 while taking the Whidbey-Sea Tac shuttle service.  On the upside, it gave me time to finish my excellent Puget Sound Kombucha I grabbed on the ferry.

Love the Earl Grey!

However, I've reviewed this place several times, so today I'm up to something different.  I think I've come far enough along to review the "CEAR" program showing up at more and more TSA checkpoints.  Note that this is an honest review, I've paid for my family's memberships the old fashioned way. 

The basic idea with Clear is that you go through some additional screening, both online, and in person to verify your identity and do some biometrics.  Then, you get two main benefits when you show up to a Clear airport- you don't have to pull out your ID at the screening checkpoint, and you get to cut the pre-check line.  So really, you cut the line that's cutting the line already.  Once you get to the actual screening, it's the same as precheck. 

How it works is that instead of going to pre-check, you walk up to the designated Clear lane, give your boarding pass to the staff member there, and put your fingers on the kiosk to read your fingerprints, or look into the scanner to have your irises scanned.  Then the staff member verifies it, stamps your boarding pass, and leads you to the front of the line. 

I grabbed it too early- the rest of the stamp is on my hand.
I had some early hiccups with the service, mainly at Houston when I was going through there a fair amount for work earlier this year. Right off, my ID didn't match up correctly with my AA account and therefore my tickets, so it had to be manually done, and then I got a chance to get it corrected and it's worked well since.  Second, it may just be a Houston thing, but the Clear lane didn't match up with the precheck lane, so you could in essence only use one or the other.  So you could use Clear, but then have regular screening (shoes off, laptop out) or vice versa.  A bit of a fail, but localized to IAH A gates as far as I can tell.

So, that's my critique, and now for the neutral part of the review.  In general, to decide if it's worth it to you (the cost is $99 with a Delta FFN, $179 without, family is an additional $50, and minors flying with you under 18 are free) you first need to note if your most common airports have Clear at all.  Now that LAX has it, as does SEA and DFW, some of our most traveled places, it weighs in favor of keeping it up.  Also, there's the simple fact of if you generally feel like precheck at your airports and times is a wait.  Honestly, LAX T4 really isn't most of the time, but other places, like today at SEA were a significant delay, so I definitely saved some time.

Now for the positives.  Because I like to think of myself as a people person, I'll start with the staff.  Every single one I've met have been fantastic, cheerful, and patient.  I don't want to paint a broad brush about TSA, some honestly are great, but having at least part of your experience with screening being consistently pleasant is a plus.  I hope they're being paid and treated as well as they seem like they are. 

Next- on average, it does save you time.  It's either as fast, or significantly faster than pre-check depending on the lines.  I also find just the act of not having to take your ID out twice a good thing, since it's been more than one occasion where I've forgotten to put it right back, and it's taken several days and going through my travel stuff to find my drivers license again. 

Another plus is that they make using the service as a family fantastic.  The fact that all minors flying with you are free and you don't have to do anything to sign them up is wonderful.  This is a stark contrast (for obvious reasons) with Global Entry where we've been stuck in the regular lines to get our kiddo through even though me and Mrs. CurisingAltitude are long time GE members.  Also, being able to tack a spouse onto a membership for $50 makes it less daunting to get everyone onboard.

Lastly, the bit of the review that's either a benefit or a drawback, depending on how you feel about it- Clear has it's own lane by pre-check, and as you're escorted through by the Clear staff member there's an air of "VIP" to it.  Like I said, you either love this, or feel a little silly.  Either's fine, just a sidenote, really.

Overall, my personal feeling is that it's worth it for our family at the moment.  We're flying to places where we use it, and our Baby Flyer gets through with us for free.  The less fiddling around with IDs and bags with a 20 month old in tow, the better.  Plus, because we signed Mrs CruisingAltitude up at LAX, they were giving out free power sticks for new members, and gave me one too!  It's the little things. 

Clear may be right for you, or it may not.  I hope my thoughts help you make the decision.

Fly well,


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