I love CLEAR, I do not know their costs, but I do not see how the airport piece of their business is sustainable. They charge for faster access to the front of the security line. That’s a huge coup for passengers and they’ve gotten into airports controlled by Delta and United because both carriers have a stake in the business (terminals controlled by American, like JFK terminal 8, do not have CLEAR because the airline won’t allow it).
There’s a natural limit to their success:
- The more successful CLEAR becomes, the longer their lines will get. There’s a limit to their physical footprint in the airport and a limit to TSA throughput: ‘whenever everyone has clear no one does’.
- I’d imagine their customer acquisition costs are pretty high, maybe the service is sticky enough that retention is high. That Amex Platinum deal must cost them a ton, plus all the United miles and Uber credits they hand out.
I’ve wondered what the end game is, since I don’t see how the product remains stable as it really grows, and I don’t buy a large-scale pivot to non-airport business.
We’re seeing one area where they might try to generate incremental revenue though, as reported by The Points Guy: airport VIP services. They’re currently trialing this in Orlando, a offering curb-to-gate VIP escort called “CLEAR Premium” for just $79.
Clear provides an “Ambassador” that assists passengers through check-in and baggage check, then security and then through the terminal to the gate. It’s the kind of thing, at this price point, I’d consider for my in-laws at crowded airports.
Airlines and independent companies offer this service already, albeit not necessarily bundled with premium security though often with lounge acccess. American Airlines offers Five Star service at several airports. United outsources its service to Global Airport Concierge.
Delta’s VIP Select is less promoted, in fact I do not even know of a website advertising it. You set it up by phone (1-855-235-9847) and at most airports where it is offered it’s $250 for one person, $325 for two people, then $125 for each additional. I believe it’s offered at most hubs plus San Francisco.
The CLEAR option is.. cheaper, which makes it more accessible and desirable.