I am frequent traveler and travel a lot for work and vacation as well. Recently, at the airline check-in counter, when I was flying to US from Singapore, the printed boarding pass had some additional big capital letters saying “SSSS”. I was like…what is this ? The staff told that I need additional screening as the system determines this randomly or based on certain things…and I am the lucky one ! This is the first time appearing, so I was kind of nervous on what the heck is this. In general, as an Indian, when I visit foreign countries, I am used to this famous phrase at security check : ‘can you please step aside sir’, nevertheless I was kind of slightly nervous. Let me share my experience on what this is and how you can try to get it fixed as well.
SSSS on my Boarding Pass printed at the check-in counter
What is SSSS on your Boarding Pass for International Flight ? What does it mean ?
In airline travel security world, SSSS is an acronym for ‘Secondary Security Screening Selection’…sounds like an interesting acronym with same 4 letters that I have never seen before…anyways, the backend Security Systems (especially airport security) of US assess the passenger profile and issues this security rating for secondary screening. Basically, it means that the security systems determined that based on your profile, travel history, and others it has selected you for additional security screening and tagged your boarding pass with ‘SSSS’. Some say, system has randomly selected you, but you know that is a nice way of putting it on the system…it may very well be, but you know the truth !
Why are you given SSSS by the Airport Travel Security System ?
No one will clearly tell you the reason for you getting SSSS on your boarding pass. But, some of the common reasons for getting SSSS are based on the premise that there was something unusual in your travel pattern, your ticketing, or your overall profile such as below :
- Booking last minute airline tickets
- Booking of one-way international flight tickets
- Traveling from a high-risk country
- Having multiple stop overs during your travel itinerary. Unusual travel itinerary.
- Paying for your airfare in Cash
- If you are on a security watch list
- If you a have visited any high risk security threat countries
- If you had any criminal record from the past
- If you had any security related charges at the airport
- If you had carried any prohibited materials or weapons in the past
There is no clear guideline as such, these are some common reasons you could get SSSS on your boarding pass. Some of the information on security screening practices in US came out from a Report Leaked from 2011, which is posted on Wikimedia.
What happens when you get SSSS on your Boarding pass ? Extra Security Check ? Lines ?
It may sound nervous for you, if you had got it, but it can be a blessing in disguise as you will have your own line and no need to be in the long line. Once the security personnel checks your boarding pass, before you enter the standard security check line and sees that you have SSSS on your boarding pass, they will ask you to get out of the line. You will be escorted for secondary screening. It can take about 10 to 30 minutes, so be prepared. Below are some of the common things they will usually perform.
- Full Extra Body Pat down / Scan : You will get extra full body patting, extra metal detector body scans, you will asked to remove your shoes, belt as well.
- Luggage Scan : Your luggage will be thoroughly checked and scanned couple of times in the scanner and you may need to open and show few things as needed.
- Electronic Devices Check : They will ask you to power up all electronics such as phones, laptops, watches and check.
- Explosives & Narcotics Contact Scan : They will take a cotton/ fabric/ paper swab kind of thing and rub it on your clothes, your luggage, your belt, shoes, and other belongings and put in in ION Scanner to detect contact with Narcotics or explosive materials.
- Stamp/ sticker on Boarding Pass by Officer : The TSA Officer or Security officer at the internal airport would put a sticker or Stamp on your boarding pass. If done sin US airport, they would fill out a form and put a stamp on the boarding pass. See below SSSS boarding card after security check is done. If it is done in other countries, they may just put in a sticker and sign on it…it can vary by airport.
Once all of the checks are done and it is all green, then you are allowed to leave the security area. There is nothing to panic, it is standard process for them. If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry, the bright side is you don’t have to stand in long line.
Once you get SSSS, will it continue to happen in future every time you board ?
It is very hard to say, totally depends on your travel purpose, destination, booking time and many other factors. The odds are that, once you get it, you may get SSSS on your boarding card more often…So, be prepared for your travel and allocate time…It is not mandatory that you will get it every time, it is just highly likely that you may get it. Nothing to panic, if you have everything with you and your travel intent is good.
How can you get the SSSS from Boarding Pass in Future ?
If you are constantly getting SSSS on your boarding pass, have issues at security check every time you fly or denied boarding, any other security screening issues, you can reach out to DHS on this and submit your request. You need to go to DHS Trip Website, fill out a form for Redress and answer few questions in there, submit the same. You may also need to submit a copy of your valid passport as well. You will hear from DHS in few weeks regarding your ruling in mail. It could resolve future SSSS issues and you can have hassle free flying…but some cases, it may not resolve it as well…but, no harm in trying…
Will I get SSSS on my boarding pass for Domestic Flights ?
In general, you often see SSSS printed on your boarding pass of the passengers taking international flights to USA. I personally had SSSS on my boarding pass for my international flight from Singapore to USA, but I did not get SSSS for my domestic flight within US after I landed at Port of entry from SFO to PHL. Some users have reported that they have got SSSS for domestic flights within US as well, but very few. So, you may get SSSS for domestic flights as well…do not be surprised, if you get it.
Overall, do not worry about SSSS on your boarding pass and be in panic mode, it could be for many unknown reasons beyond your control…just relax and enjoy skipping the line 😉
What was your experience getting SSSS on boarding pass ?