With @CLEAR can it be faster / simpler to exit and re-enter the airport after clearing customs? – Yep!

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TSA PreCheck has been a travel game changer for anyone who has it. Even if I back off and only fly a few times a year I will always hold and pay for (via a travel card rebate perk, clearly) TSA PreCheck. It is just that much of a time saver for me.

Clear, as a top Delta elite, is provided at no charge. I do not think I would hold it if I only flew one or two times a year but as someone who is almost always at the airport, it also is simply a must have part of my travel. Even if Delta did not pay for this service I would happily pay for it (with a discount due to holding my Delta Amex card).

But there is a major issue with BOTH of these amazing travel convenience programs – they are never (that I have ever seen) available when you first enter the USA and have just cleared customs and need to again clear security before your connecting flight. Then what do you do?

Personally I am not the type, who has not been spoiled with the convenience and speed of the above, who is willing to stand in a very long line and then – after the long wait – take my shoes off and laptop out and on and on… But what else can you do? Simple:

Exit and re-enter the airport!

This can be an amazing time saver depending on the airport (some are less efficient than others as a warning). Take SEA Seattle SeaTac International. Last time I was traveling through there internationally with a group of friends I quickly judged the mess in front of me and exited the customs area, took the escalator all the way, shot past the LONG line at TSA PreCheck (with help of CLEAR) and was back in the airport in no time with shoes firmly in place and laptop never out of my bag – #Winning!

I had time to enjoy a drink and finish a snack in the stunning SEA Sky Club before my friends, who were none too happy about the time it took, rolled on in to the club. They were incredulous that I got in so fast (and seemed to disappear as well). I explained to them what they should have done.

The same thing does work in Detroit but there you have to judge how long the lines are but I still exit and re-enter in #DTW. Now in ATL it is not as simple. The international terminal may not have PreCheck up and running or have pseudo PreCheck “lite” going. Still often better than what happens below in the basement! 😉

Bottom line is simply this – if you are at an airport with CLEAR and PreCheck do consider the option to not wait in a long line of maybe 100 folks, all of whom are really worthless at the whole security line thing! – Rene






  1. Given the horror of ATL transfer from INT to domestic connections where there is no courtesy for DM, Pre-Check, Clear, or anyone else, this may be an answer. I went through STR-ATL-DTW last week and TSA had me remove belt, watch, shoes, liquids, computers, all electronics, any nuts (I always carry a small pack of almonds for emergency delays), cheese (I had some from the STR AF Lounge). Unbelievable! I have never entered ATL international from the “outside” so Rene’s warning there may be no Pre-Check is to be heeded. Can’t be worse, though.

  2. Great comments Rene. I am flying GCM to ATL in March next year (with a connection after)…..has the security mess gotten any better in “the basement” or is it still the same? Have they added Pre-Check? Trying to clear security after cleaning customs has ALWAYS been a nightmare there.

  3. Great idea Rene!
    Have to figure out how to exit and enter at New York. They have extremely long lines and it takes forever.

  4. I do this all the time. Recently in Atlanta, they removed the Priority Lane in E. I always cross my fingers that we arrive at F concourse when arriving from an international destination into ATL. Sadly, when arriving in E you have no option but to endure the security recheck lane when arriving with bags. I have missed three connections this year because of 50-70 minute security lines in E. Its a huge mess and Delta blames TSA and TSA will tell you its Delta’s choice. Other days, there is hardly anybody. Lesson learned is that I never same day confirm on the return until I have cleared customs and security recheck.

  5. In my experience it’s nearly always quicker to leave and re-enter whether or not you have Clear. Even if you don’t have precheck it’s usually quicker!

  6. Rene:

    Thanks for the useful information. I have struggled with this exact same issue in several airports (primarily Atlanta). However, I have never found any Pre-Check lane in Atlanta in the international arrivals area (when getting to a connecting flight). I’ve always been stuck in the normal line or sometimes a priority (non-Pre-Check) line. Is there now a Pre-Check lane in that area?

    In Atlanta, how long does it take to get from exiting International customs (and re-checking your bag) to a “normal” check-in area with CLEAR?

    Any experience at JFK with this issue as I’ll be connecting through there in a few months?

    Connected through MSP recently and went up to the “normal” check-in area to get access to CLEAR. Worked like a charm (although I studied the airport map in advance).

  7. How did you get by with shoes on and laptop in your bag. In Dallas where I first tried CLEAR you still go through the regular TSA line. There with CLEAR all I got was to cut in to the front of the regular TSA line, so shoes off and all the other things that go with it, laptop out and liquids out. After that I have not used CLEAR again, as if that is how it works, it did not work well for me but if that is the exception I will try it again.

  8. Hi, Rene’, in ATL, I have left the International Terminal (Terminal F) after seeing long lines to re-enter the airport, gone upstairs and entered through Pre-Check at Terminal F. Not sure if they have CLEAR there now or not. When I did this in the past, I did not have CLEAR.

    This was especially helpful during the December holidays in 2015 and 2016.

  9. i agree it is amess when u re-enter and then have to go thru regular snail tsa checkpoint ,,,

  10. Went through CLEAR at SFO and one thing they do different from DTW is a dedicated security belt. Great improvement.
    Maybe you could compile a list of where it makes sense to follow your suggestion. We usually get caught up in that at MIA.

  11. I have done this in SEA, but not in ATL.
    ATL is a mess after customs when connecting.
    Has anyone tried exiting and re entering there?
    Just curious how difficult it is to go out and back in.

  12. it appears you would need to take the shuttle back to the main terminal to use clear.
    It appears there is a TSA Pre lane at the international terminal, but I am unsure if they will let you use it for domestic flights:
    I also read that if you are connecting and your airplane lands at E, there is no way to exit without going through security as passengers who will be exiting will be moved directly to F
    i am hoping there is a way around this as I hate taking my bag apart just to put it together

  13. ATL is a joke downstairs for Int’l. One giant line, surly TSA. Adds 45-60 minutes to connect. They should be ashamed, It needs to be fixed,

  14. Mark:

    Yes, I did this in Minneapolis. Don’t recall the exact route, but once I exited customs (no bag to re-check), it took me approximately 5 minutes to be at my connecting flight gate. I had CLEAR. I was able to catch the earlier flight and the Grizzlies playoff game (morning eating Sushi in Tokyo … evening an NBA Playoff game … does it get any better?).

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