FlyClear Ceases Operations

Last night word spread that FlyClear ceased operations.  I’m seriously bummed.  Clear was one of those small bright spots in my hectic travel schedule.

I don’t have any inside information from the company, but something doesn’t add up.  They claim that they had signed up over 260,000 travelers.  Since joining cost between $100 and $200 bucks that would put lifetime revenues in the $26m to $52m range.

So how does the company burn through all of that cash plus it’s venture funding when from a consumer standpoint their service amounted to a few folks at every airport helping you through security?

My only guess is that airports must have been extracting large sums of cash, or the TSA was bleeding them dry.  Or perhaps Clear was developing next generation screening technology and that created a massive cash burn.

Whatever the case may be, I’m really going to miss the service, as several flights would have been missed without them. 

  • I always had the exact opposite experience. Every time I used Clear I was like "why?". The premier line is just as short. Maybe it's the different cities we go to. For me it's Boston, SF, LGA, Den, and that's pretty much it. Those cities just never seem to have a premier line longer than a few people. i had clear for a year, and in my estimation, it cost me time (filling out the applications two step process, etc). i also couldn't use it when i was traveling with someone else since they didn't have it. granted, you travel way more than me, but i won't miss it a bit personally.

    • Im kinda with you David. I always looked at the clear booth, and thought to myself, "I should get that," but never did. Just didnt seem to make that much of a difference, and to have some third party have my bioscan data, passport and other highly identifiable data points, just never made it worth my time.

      Now if Bose stops making its Quiet Comfort headphones, there will be a riot!

      • I can’t remember a time in SF that the Clear line wasn’t substantially shorter than the premium lines.

  • My experience with it was like this: I signed up online, really excited by the notion of retinal scanning. First time I went to the airport… oh damnit, I forgot to bring two forms of ID. Next time I went to the airport – SONOFABITCH – forgot to bring two forms of ID. Repeat process, until I learned that they had a massive security of information breach when one of their laptops "went missing" with tons of sensitive data. Canceled before I ever finished the sign-up process.

    In my humble opinion, a better use of money is signing up for the red carpet club. Granted, I exclusively fly United, but I find it's a better use of money to be able to go to the airport early and have a quiet place to work with free internet/food/drinks/ until my flight leaves.

    I do wish the red carpet club scanned your retina to enter though.

  • I didn't bother renewing. value wasn't there. premier line is fast to get you through the "lines," and Clear just dumped you into the 2ndary security line w/ the masses (often in the "family" dedicated line) anyway.

  • I have a feeling, though, that Clear wasn't intended for people who had premier status or regularly flew business. Otherwise, what's the value add? I've never waited more than a couple minutes in a premier or business/first line.

    • Dov

      I think Clear was specifically targeting business travelers – people who travel a lot (spend a lot of time in airports and airport lines) and value their time highly. But these same customers already have premier status on at least one airline and can usually jump far enough ahead in the queue to avoid the crowds. Families and occasional travelers sure aren't going to plunk down the $100-$200 just to avoid lines 1-2 times per year.

  • inp

    I live in ATL and travel frequently. Once they finally got their act together, Clear in ATL was great. If you haven't experienced ATL, you might not be aware that even the First Class/Medallion lines can take 45 minutes or so, and you're just funneled in with everyone else. Anything to make travel easier seemed worth it – you have to get your kicks where you can when you spend your life stuck in an airport. With that said, I'm outraged that they are not offering refunds or any solutions to recoup the money that people like me have blown for a service that was clearly (no pun intended) going under and they were aware of that. If anyone knows a good attorney or hears of a class action lawsuit, please advise.

  • ATL fixed the problem with the elite/Medallion lines when they built the new dedicated checkpoint. That and Orlando were two of the better airports for Clear's service but it still was a crock.

    The concept of paying extra and providing an incredible amount of personal information simply to walk to the front of the line where you received the same groping and prodding from the TSA is just plain silly. If they really were performing a useful check of passengers then there should have been other benefits, like not having to strip down to pass through the checkpoint. But for the first year or so the biometric authentication wasn't even considered proof of identity by the TSA – you still had to show a photo ID. Talk about stupid.

  • (apparently my comment is too long)

    As for real benefits in terms of walking to the front of the line, I guess there was some value for some people some of the time, but people who traveled frequently generally have a similar enough benefit through their status at most airports. There certainly wasn't the incremental value in it from my perspective, particularlty with their record for maintaining the security of personal data.

  • (like really, really long :o)

    From the cash burn perspective I'd bet that the vast majority of their subscribers never paid anywhere close to full price to sign up. Everyone I know who had a card got it from being top tier elite at a hotel program. And I cannot imagine that Hyatt, Starwood and Marriott paid full price to buy in bulk like that. On the cost side of the equation they had to staff 3-5 people at a bunch of airports and invest in cool technology like retinal scanners. That costs a bit. But I'm betting the real cash sink was from renting space at the airports. Getting the floor space to set up operations can be very expensive.

    That, or they were paying bribes to the TSA.

    • Good intel.  I didn’t know about the rewards stuff.  I guess that I was dumb and getting ripped off.  J

  • The value to Clear for me was not that the line was usually shorter, but that the time to get through security was predictable. The non-clear lines may or may not be short, the Clear line was always short. This made traffic, which is now easy to get on my phone, the last variable when deciding my home/office departure time — no more padding extra time for the security line.

    I also found that Clear made traveling with a child much easier, for reasons you may not expect and that the family lane wouldn't help: http://www.thebentleys.com/blog/2009_04.html

    I just re-upped with Clear in April. Sigh. If their subscriber and RPU numbers are accurate, I too wonder where all the money went.

    My initial suspicion was that they were playing hardball with creditors and operations will resume. I can't imagine there are any other assets there other than the cash flow from operations. I can, however, clearly picture the following conversation:
    Creditor: we're not giving up any of our preferences
    Company: you have to, everyone else is, and we can't raise more cash unless you do
    Creditor: don't care, we're not budging
    Company: … okay, here are the keys. Good luck. You have preferences on a bunch of biometric machines and red ropes.
    Creditor: … wait, uh … come back?

    It seems, however, that this kind of announcement would go a long way to killing sales. They'd need a huge PR budget to come back after this.

    • You clearly have negotiated with creditors before.  J

      Great comment.

  • Tim

    I signed up because I didn't fly enough last year to keep elite status, but started flying again this year and wanted to skip the security lines (I fly out of DIA and they can be baaad at times). So I ponied up the $179. Let's see, I made 10 trips since then, so 17.90 a trip. United wanted something like $1100 to protect my elite status… Not worth THAT much; if I had that I wouldn't have bothered with Clear. There was never a line when I went through Clear and I often wondered how long they could take up valuable and congested terminal real estate with almost no business. Too good to last.

  • lkj
  • Lee

    Fly Clear Class Action at http://www.flyclearclassaction.com

    The Brand Law Firm Located in Orlando, Florida will be filing a lawsuit against Fly Clear and Verified Identity Pass, Inc. on behalf of consumers that have purchased “Clear Card” services from Fly Clear. Clear Card is a service sold to travelers that expedites the security screening process at airports, and costs approximately $199 per year. Clear Card was in use at airports such as Albany, Denver, San Francisco, and Orlando International Airport. According to its website, Fly Clear has ceased its operations as of June 22, 2009, and its Clear Lanes are no longer available. According to the Clear Card website, Fly Clear will not issue refunds to consumers.

    If you have purchased a subscription to Fly Clear’s Clear Card services, please contact the attorneys at 877-407-Brand or fill out the contact form on http://www.flyclearclassaction.com

  • Lee

    Fly Clear Class Action at http://www.flyclearclassaction.com

    The Brand Law Firm Located in Orlando, Florida will be filing a lawsuit against Fly Clear and Verified Identity Pass, Inc. on behalf of consumers that have purchased ?Clear Card? services from Fly Clear. Clear Card is a service sold to travelers that expedites the security screening process at airports, and costs approximately $199 per year. Clear Card was in use at airports such as Albany, Denver, San Francisco, and Orlando International Airport. According to its website, Fly Clear has ceased its operations as of June 22, 2009, and its Clear Lanes are no longer available. According to the Clear Card website, Fly Clear will not issue refunds to consumers.

    If you have purchased a subscription to Fly Clear?s Clear Card services, please contact the attorneys at 877-407-Brand or fill out the contact form on http://www.flyclearclassaction.com

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