United Airlines announced today an new working agreement with CLEAR, a secure identity company that now uses biometrics technology, to deliver faster curb-to-gate experiences for passengers. The partnership includes free or discounted CLEAR membership pricing for U.S.-based MileagePlus members.
The partnership marks the latest move by airlines and airports in using biometric screening to move travelers through airports more quickly and with less hassle, although the concept of policy behind the technology is being challenged by privacy advocates and may soon get tested in courts.
“Our new partnership with CLEAR is another proof point of how we are always looking to improve traveling with United, in this case by making the airport experience more convenient for customers,” said Luc Bondar, vice president of loyalty and president of MileagePlus at United. “CLEAR’s secure and seamless biometric security option creates an expedited travel experience that many of our frequent flyers already use and love. We’re excited to partner with CLEAR to expand their presence at our hub airports and to provide all MileagePlus members with either free or deeply discounted memberships.”
United is also making a strategic equity investment in CLEAR that will support the company’s growth, including bringing CLEAR to the airline’s hubs at Newark Liberty International Airport and Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport starting later this summer. United is also supporting CLEAR’s efforts at Chicago O’Hare as CLEAR lanes prepare to open coming months. CLEAR already operates at United’s hubs in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington Dulles.
CLEAR is spearheading the new technology at US airports by funneling passenger information into a single biometric ID. After a one-time enrollment, CLEAR members enjoy the benefits of easier, more predictable experiences at some 60 airports, arenas, stadiums and Hertz rental car locations in the company’s nationwide network. CLEAR reduces the overall amount of time customers spend at the airport security checkpoint by automating the document check portion of the TSA process, much like TSA PreCheck, which is run by the federal government (with manpower and resources slowing and unavailable for these services as resources are sent to the southern border) and costs $85 for five years.
CLEAR has around 3.8 million members, and has been steadily expanding since it launched in 2010.
According to news reports, Delta is also investing in a CLEAR partnership, although neither airline will say how much they are investing in the security identification firm. Delta currently uses facial recognition systems at its hub in Atlanta, allowing passengers to board quickly without having to show a boarding pass or passport. The technology is also used on some international outbound flights.
CLEAR members need only a tap their finger or blink for the mapping equipment placed in dedicated lanes.
For other MileagePlus members, the annual cost of Clear will be reduced to free or as low as $109 per year from the regular rate of $179, depending on the membership tier.