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Not the SSSS boarding pass!
In the past few years, I’ve had the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass multiples times I’ve flown one way out of Europe to the United States. What is it? Well, for one it’s a massive pain in the butt. It inevitably means you’ve been selected for a further round of security after you’ve already gotten through normal security. But why? Let’s take a look at what SSSS is and how you could “possibly” avoid it.
What does the SSSS on your boarding pass mean?
Simply…it’s stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection ( or Selectee) and is a second point of security for travel in the United States.
In practice, it means, that after you’ve cleared the main security area of the airport and are gateside, you’ll be subject to another round of security at the gate.
Why does my boarding pass have SSSS on it?
It’s not entirely clear as to why certain passengers get SSSS on their boarding pass, but speculatively the following reasons
- Visiting “high risk” countries or those on a terror watch list
- Purchasing cash fares
- Last minute ticketing
- One way international trips
I’ve had SSSS on my boarding many times in the past, in fact, my most recent flight from the UK to the States had SSSS on the boarding pass. It took all of 3 to 5 minutes and wasn’t any big deal.
No SSSS on this boarding pass…
How intense is SSSS?
It ranges from having your bag swabbed and scanned for explosives to having very single item removed from your carry on luggage and examined. You’ll never know what to expect.
I’ve experienced SSSS searches many times in the past and they’ve ranged from a few minutes to 15 or 20. I’ve heard of people being held for 30 minutes+, so if you see if on your boarding get to the gate early.
The key to the process is to be super helpful and friendly.
Tips if you get SSSS on your boarding pass
- Arrive at the gate early
- Request to board in an earlier group since you’ll be subjected to SSSS
- If you’re traveling with someone, give them the hand luggage that has the most stuff in it.
How often have I gotten SSSS?
I’ve rarely had an SSSS on my boarding pass when flying domestically within the US. In the past few years I’ve been getting SSSS on long haul flights, usually one way and booked last minute, from either Europe or the Middle East to the US.
Does having Global Entry or TSA Pre help at all?
How can you avoid SSSS? Redress?
If you find yourself repeatedly getting selected for SSSS you can apply for a redress number. This, in theory, should clear your name in the system or any information in the system that may be flagging you for extra scrutiny.
I’m flagged so infrequently that it’s never really been worth the time to get a redress number. If it started to consistently happen in the US, I’d suspect there was misinformation in my profile and apply for a redress number.
Otherwise…I’m not too bothered by it.
If you seen the dreaded SSSS on your boarding pass just remember that you’re going to have another round of security prior to boarding that plane, most likely at the gate.
Monkey Miles has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Monkey Miles and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
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