A Clear Comeback in Airport Security

March 7, 2017

On June 22, 2009, the Clear registered traveler program shut down abruptly after then-owner Verified Identity Pass said it was unable to get funds to keep operations going. At the time, Clear was in 20 U.S. airports and had nearly 200,000 members enrolled.

Its sudden demise left airports stranded with equipment, special lanes and missing payments. A new company, Alclear LLC, headed by Chairman and CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker, bought the assets of Clear in 2010 and the hard work began to bring airports back onboard.

“[Feb. 2] was the seven-year anniversary of the auction, and we closed the sale in April,” said Seidman-Becker. “The first meeting we had was with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport because it was the last airport that was launched under the old company.”

There were a lot of complaints, Seidman-Becker recalled. “We were the first people from Clear that they met with since the original company closed. Nobody wanted to talk to them,” she said.

The Clear lanes were launched in Atlanta on Feb. 1. “I was in Atlanta when we launched and took it in that we were now in the busiest airport in the world,” she said. “At the ribbon-cutting ceremony with Delta’s COO, the pods were already filled with people ready to enroll.

“Back in 2012, we had two airports — Orlando and Denver. We had to overcome a lot of skepticism from airports, and it hit me from a time perspective in Atlanta. It was an exciting week.”

In the time Clear has been growing, the goal was clear, said Seidman-Becker. “It was our absolute determination to bring a frictionless customer experience and a better security system to travelers in the United States,” she stated.  “We had a vision seven years ago to build what we call the secured identity platform, with a mission of improving security and delighting customers. We also believed that we could bring this platform to so many different places like sports stadiums or building access.”

One of Clear’s core values is to be indubitable, said Seidman-Becker. “To support that vision and get through the skepticism, we’re focused on doing what we said we were going to do and rebuilding the integrity of the brand. I think that was really important,” she stated. “But I also think the innovation that we’ve brought forward to change the customer experience allows travelers to go cardless. You never need to take your driver’s license out of your wallet again.”

As of today, Clear is in 20 airports, with Indianapolis and Los Angeles International airports coming, said Seidman-Becker. “The target is to be at 28 airports by at the end of the year. Our network today covers the majority of the U.S. travel network,” she said.

Seidman-Becker noted that more than 50 percent of Clear customers are also enrolled in TSA PreCheck, including her. “It’s been transformative. Whenever I fly out of LaGuardia I know it’s going to take me about 20 minutes if I leave early in the morning. I know how long it’s going to take me to get there, leaving an hour for security and a little bit more in case of traffic,” she said.

“After we launched at LaGuardia, I left at 5:05 and got a text from a colleague asking if he could order me anything to eat. I texted back saying I was just leaving my house now,” she said. “I got to the airport at 5:22 because I knew with certainty that Clear would get me through security in less than five minutes.” By 5:24, she had her coffee and walked onto her flight.

Clear’s technology offers a consistent, predictable, amazing, fast and frictionless experience, said Seidman-Becker. “And then the ability to keep my coat and shoes on when I have TSA PreCheck is awesome.”

The company has nearly 1 million members, said Seidman-Becker. “Looking ahead, number one is continuing to drive the airport network. Number two is to work toward serving people where they’re living, working and traveling. That means having things like biometric backpacks, biometric boarding passes, biometric payments and biometric boarding. Think of all of the friction points in the airport,” she said. “Those are some of the places that you will start to think with Clear more and more.”