CLEAR for TSA PreCheck?

A background check, a finger scan, and a bunch of cash up front gets you through CLEAR.

A few weeks ago, Mark David Jones and I went to visit a client together. Whenever Mark travels, he uses CLEAR, a pre-paid service which guarantees you to get through airport security in less than 5 minutes. Mark loves this service, as he hates wasting time in line, and as he is usually running late when he gets there. I, on the other hand, can’t stand to pay for a service which should be organized and streamlined to begin with. I would rather get there a few minutes prior and be strategic in which line to join. Also, for frequent fliers, a line is usually set aside in most airports–although not in Orlando. We kid back and forth about the advantages and disadvantages of either–Mark usually looking like the winner as he moves through the line so quickly.

All that changed last month, however, when TSA PreCheck started a piloting program where frequent fliers not only have their own separate line–they don’t have to remove their shoes or take their laptops and other electronics out of the bag. I learned that I was slated for that program and was ushered toward the newly dedicated queue! Wow! How cool was that. There were so few frequent fliers I was out of there in no time. I was excited to tell Mark.

TSA Pre is coming to an airport near you. (This one.)

So, in our travel together a few weeks ago, I timed our movement through the queue. Not exactly reliable data, we only sampled ourselves going through once, but the results were interesting. It took Mark 2:52 to go through CLEAR. It took me only 1:38 to go through!

What’s more, my going through TSA PreCheck was free! Sort of. Not sure what the price we as taxpayers pay for it. Not sure if the government is sort of competing with private enterprise–or if private enterprise is simply taking advantage of poor government management and bureaucracy. CLEAR is only in 3 cities currently and has had its own ups and downs with the economy. TSA PreCheck only handles passengers with Alaska, American and Delta, but is in 15 major airports and is slated to go into an additional 20 in 2012. Is this good service by a government agency? Is this a service that will go away with the next congressional budget cut? Should we be expecting this kind of service, or should we have to pay private enterprise to offer it?

What do you think?