New ‘Curb To Gate’ Airport VIP Service Just $79

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. For anybody like me wondering, that’s $79 per reservation, not an annual all-you-can-eat subscription fee like the regular Clear service (as reported by TPG).

  2. Except the Clear ambassador can’t do the most valuable aspect of those services. Rebook you in case of irrop.

  3. Do they take you to the front of the Clear line?

    I have Clear without TSA pre-check. While a lot more people have, in my experience, Clear standard is still faster than TSA pre or Clear TSA pre. Too many people have pre-check now. Airports like Orlando and Las Vegas are a disaster, with or without Clear and with or without TSA pre. Thankfully, we are seeing the return of “premium” lanes for business-class and first-class passengers. Las Vegas lane is very helpful.

  4. Another reader who would definitely pay the $79 CLEAR VIP fee for each of my elderly parents, who refuse to travel (fly) now because “getting through the airport is too confusing.”

  5. I wish they’d expand to more sports stadiums and concert venues. The lines are frequently tremendously long and this could support a lower threshold of screening or similar. I see that is a potential area of growth.

  6. Clear is basically useless. Sometimes lines are loner with Clear . I get it for free with Amex Pat. Otherwise, I would skip it.

  7. When I booked my limo in IST to get from the hotel to IST airport, unbeknownst to me, a type of VIP airport service was included in the limo charge. This VIP service included a personal valet that greeted us when our limo arrived at the airport (perfect timing with cell phone coordination by the limo driver). The valet took us to a security line where we were the ONLY people to go thru that line. They closed the line again after we went through. Next he escorted us to immigration and put us into a line ONLY FOR US, no other people in that line. After immigration, he took us to the Turkish Air Lounge. And he gave us a pass to show the brigade driving the golf carts located at the bottom of the escalators to/from the Lounge. So when it was close to boarding time, we went down the escalator, got on a cart, and were driven to our gate. It was about 1 kilometer away, so I’m glad we did it. All this: Limo ride and the VIP escort through the airport for only 185 EUROS for 2 people.
    BTW, the CLEAR/Precheck line in ATL is often longer than the other lines. Unbelievable.

  8. Obviously it’s not for readers of this blog. Gary would feel rather silly having his hand held through the airport experience. But maybe for an elderly family member on a one-off basis? I could see it for some. I have Clear since it’s a Plat benefit, but most of my travel doesn’t originate in Clear airports, so I’ve had little value from it.

  9. My husband would be a great candidate for this service. However, he gets me for ‘free’. As the population ages, I can see this as a really great service, and profitable. As long as all the ‘ambassadors’ always show up for work and all the ‘officials’ cooperate of course.

  10. Reminded of the Yogi Berra quip aboua popular restaurant :

    “Nobody goes there anymore,it’s too crowded”….

  11. Clear and airlines/airports are missing an opportunity to sell very pricey “cut all security lines” packages. Depending on the airport, time of day, personal situation, etc. I would pay $250+ per flight to cut to the front of the security line. Can’t just be another lane, or that will ultimately get backed up just like Clear is now often backed up… Needs to be a “cut to the front” option with enough dedicated staffing so there isn’t a wait. Whether Clear would need to charge $100 or $500+ per passenger to make it work economically I don’t know… But I am sure there is a market for it.

  12. Clear needs to work to improve their basic service before expanding. Clear has many new people working who appear to be onboarded with little initiation, training or experience. Many don’t know much about the airport they work in and are the source of incorrect unsolicited information. Wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the majority of their “ambassadors” have never traveled by air recently or ever.

    Their primary service will only get worse if they are going to drain their best people away for those willing to pay for the new Vip service.

  13. @SMR: “What could possibly be a bigger waste of money?”

    How about you purchase an AMEX Platinum card with an annual fee of $695 and expect to use the Centurion Lounges at DFW, LAS, DEN, CLT, and other airports? When you arrive, due to overcrowding, there is a one to three-hour wait to enter. AMEX should tell cardholders, “Sucks to be you today.”

  14. So after reading this I did just make a Delta VIP reservation at JFK, International to Domestic transfer, because JFK is awful. Used my $200 AMEX Plat credit to reduce the cost for two of us to $125. And yes, coming off a vacation – on my wife’s birthday – this will be a nice perk at the end. These are the T&C as of today:

    Pricing: ATL PRICING PER AIRPORT MEET: One Person: $350 | Two People: $425 | Each Additional Person: $125

    JFK, LAX, LGA, DTW, MSP, SLC, SEA & SFO PRICING PER AIRPORT MEET: One Person: $250 | Two People: $325 | Each Additional Person: $125

    LAX PRICING PER MEET WITH OFF-AIRPORT VEHICLE TRANSFER: One Person: $350 | Two People: $425 | Each Additional Person: $125

    Areas of Travel: VIP Select service is offered at Atlanta – ATL, New York–JFK, New York-LGA, Los Angeles–LAX, Detroit – DTW, Minneapolis –MSP, Salt Lake City –SLC, Seattle –SEA, and San Francisco–SFO on Delta and Delta Connection®-operated flights. Service may also be provided to customers traveling on another airline at Delta’s sole discretion, to the extent that service can be provided within a Delta terminal. VIP Select service is subject to availability and itinerary changes must be reconfirmed by Delta.

    Fees: Service fee covers one VIP Select service at one airport. Service fee is required for each airport where VIP Select service is utilized. Service fee is non-refundable for cancellations with less than 4-hour notice. All cancellation notices must be sent via email to VIPSELECT@DELTA.COM or received via phone at 1.855.235.9847. Payment for VIP Select service will be processed within approximately 72 hours or less after service completion.

    VIP Select Reservations: Reservations are encouraged to be made at least 24 hours in advance of first meet. Reservation requests must be made at least 6 hours prior to first meet in order to ensure quality service levels. Requests made within 6 hours prior to first meet are not guaranteed to be confirmed by VIP Select staff. A credit card must be provided at the time reservations are made. Refund requests may take up to two billing cycles. VIP Select service may be denied if credit card information is not received at time of booking.

    LAX Off-Airport Meets: Customers will only be driven to a designated meeting point selected by Delta. The name and contact information of the person meeting the customer at the meeting point must be provided to VIP Select at least six hours prior to the meet.

    Travel Reservations: Flight itinerary must be ticketed and include at least one Delta- or Delta Connection carrier-operated flight segment. All Delta ticketing, baggage policies, baggage fees, tariffs, and check-in requirements still apply; and use of VIP Select services does not alter any of the foregoing. Customer/agency agrees to provide service details necessary for Delta to coordinate and deliver VIP Select service. Service may be provided, in Delta’s sole discretion, to customers traveling on another airline to the extent that service can be provided within a Delta terminal.

    Changes: Changes to VIP Select service reservations are permitted at no charge pending service availability and provided that the number in the party remains the same. Customer will be charged applicable additional service fees if additional customers are added to VIP Select party. Additional customers are subject to service availability.

    Notifications: Customer/agency will be notified with name and contact details of airport agent who will assist on day of departure within 72 hours of departure when VIP Select service has been confirmed more than 72 hours in advance. Telephone numbers of Delta agents assigned to a VIP Select Customer on the day of departure are for use only when Customer is en route to or at the airport; reservation agents are available 24/7 via email at VIPSELECT@DELTA.COM or phone at 1.855.235.9847. All Customers must present a valid government-issued ID.

    Connections: Customers connecting through ATL, JFK, LAX, LGA, DTW, MSP, SLC, SEA, or SFO from another airline to a Delta or Delta Connection®-operated flight will be met by a Delta representative in the Delta terminal. Connection assistance may also be provided, in Delta’s sole discretion, to customers connecting from a Delta or Delta Connection®-operated flight to a flight operated by another carrier, but only to the extent that service can be provided within a Delta terminal. All connection flights must depart within 4 hours or less from the arriving flight time. Additional service fees will apply for all connection flights that do not meet the before said policy.

    Age: Customer must be at least 18 years of age or accompanied by an adult. Children under 2 years of age will not be charged for VIP Select service.

    Delta Sky Club®: Delta Sky Club access is included with the purchase of VIP Select service. One visit per VIP Select Customer is included per meet. Customer must be at least 21 years of age to enter Clubs with a self-service bar, unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who has a valid Delta Sky Club One-Day Pass or membership. All Delta Sky Club rules apply to Delta Sky Club membership and use. To review the rules, please visit delta.com/skyclub.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.