Travelers in the United States are no strangers to the convenience of fast lanes at airports. Many of us have experienced the bliss of breezing through security with TSA PreCheck or enjoying priority access as elite status holders. However, when it comes to going through security at airports in Europe and other parts of the world, we’ve all had our fair share of enduring punishing hours-long waits at airports like London Heathrow (LHR) or Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), giving us plenty of time to think about how much we miss air conditioning, ice in drinks, and of course, our trusted traveler programs.
But what if I told you there’s a sneaky trick you can use to dodge those long security lines in Europe? Enter CLEAR Reserve, a timeslot-based service that can save you precious time and hassle.
CLEAR Reserve: The Secret Weapon Against Long Security Lines
CLEAR Reserve is a game-changer for savvy travelers. It operates on a simple premise: you make an appointment for a 20-minute window to go through security: you get to choose a time that suits your schedule, and you enjoy a 10-minute grace period on either side of your appointment. But here’s the kicker: it’s completely free and doesn’t require you to enroll in a membership, pay a fee, submit biometrics, or create an account.
All you need is a valid email address – preferably one that’s readily accessible on your smartphone, because they’ll send you a QR code via email. This service can accommodate up to five passengers traveling together on a single appointment, making it perfect for families or groups. It’s unclear if everyone must be traveling on the same PNR, but experience suggests they won’t check.
Appointments are limited, but here’s the best part: CLEAR Reserve is relatively unknown, so snagging an appointment is rarely an issue, even very close-in (as in, “standing outside the checkpoint” close-in). As of the time of writing, you can find this service at six European airports: Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), Berlin Brandenburg (BER), Frankfurt (FRA), Hannover (HAJ), London Heathrow (pilot program, Terminal 3 only), and Rome Fiumicino (FCO). Additionally, it’s available at eight U.S. airports, although many of our readers probably already have TSA PreCheck, which is a much better and more flexible option.
For those without Global Entry, CLEAR Reserve can be a savior at six Canadian airports: Toronto Pearson (YYZ), Vancouver (YVR), Montreal-Trudeau (YUL), Calgary (YYC), Edmonton (YEG), and Halifax Stanfield (YHZ). Some airports like LHR and FCO have branded the service under names like Heathrow Timeslot and QPass, but rest assured – the service is the same beneath the branding.
Not Quite TSA PreCheck: Key Differences to Note
It’s important to note that while CLEAR Reserve offers a line-skipping aspect similar to TSA PreCheck, there’s a key difference. Once you reach the front of the line, you must undergo the full screening process as per the rules of the country you happen to be in. This usually means removing liquids and laptops from your bag and going through a full-body scanner rather than a magnetometer. So, while CLEAR Reserve expedites your entry, you’ll still need to follow the local security procedures just like everyone else.
A Handy Trick I Discovered at Amsterdam Schiphol
Recently, during my visit to Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), I stumbled upon a handy trick for using CLEAR Reserve, completely by accident. My Uber driver from the hotel kept getting lost, and it became clear (no pun intended) that I would miss my pre-booked 20-minute window.
Here’s where it gets interesting: I found out that not only could I cancel my appointment (or simply not show up) with zero penalties, but also, due to the relative obscurity of CLEAR Reserve, appointment slots were wide open. So, without any hassle, I simply created a new appointment for just 10 minutes in the future. This immediately put me within the 10-minute grace period, allowing me to head straight to the security checkpoint the moment the QR code hit my email.
In other words, CLEAR Reserve rewards those who plan ahead in advance, but how far in advance you plan is totally up to you (pending availability, of course). That could mean two days, or in my case, not even two minutes.
There are many variables at play en route to the airport – maybe a train gets cancelled, you encounter a long line at the airline counter (a big reason I try to never check a bag), or you just have a terrible Uber experience like I did. We can follow a few best practices to make the most of CLEAR Reserve and avoid security lines wherever feasible:
- Book an appointment even if you’re not 100% sure: Since there are no penalties for canceling, it’s a good practice to book an appointment if you think you might need it. It’s courteous to your fellow travelers to try to cancel if you won’t make it, but you won’t get in trouble or be charged if you miss it.
- Check for extremely close-in appointments: While this service does require a reservation in advance, that doesn’t necessarily mean very far in advance. Conventional wisdom is that is you didn’t plan ahead, you’re out of luck; you may find that’s not the case at all. If you find yourself staring at a snaking security queue, pull out your phone and check for open appointments within the next few minutes. Chances are, there will be one available. Say for example the current time is 7:02 AM – book an appointment on-the-spot for 7:10 and waltz through security almost immediately.
When rushing to make your flight, every minute saved counts, and CLEAR Reserve is a valuable tool that can help you reclaim your time and avoid those dreaded airport security lines in Europe. Give it a try on your next trip, and you might just find yourself wondering why you didn’t start using it sooner. Safe travels!