If you see SSSS on your boarding pass, it means that you will be subject to a thorough security inspection.
Passengers flying in or to the USA sometimes notice the words “SSSS” on their boarding pass. Those who know its meaning grit their teeth in anticipation of an unpleasant experience, while those who don’t find out a little later that they’ll be the object of special treatment.
What does SSSS mean on a boarding pass?
SSSS on a boarding pass stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection.
This means that the passenger concerned and his belongings will undergo a thorough inspection. The decision was made by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Why does your boarding pass mention SSSS?
When it comes to security-related measures, the TSA and DHS are naturally very vague on the subject, to make it harder for potential malicious individuals to counter their measures.
We understand that the SSSS label is conditioned by behaviors and characteristics that correspond to those of individuals identified as dangerous in the past. It’s nothing more or less than profiling to try and “intelligently” identify potentially dangerous individuals.
Based on passenger testimonies, we can assume that the following people may be involved:
– Travelling with a one-way ticket.
– Having paid for their ticket in cash
– Travelling to or from countries identified as high-risk or frequently travelling there
– Whose itinerary is bizarre, even illogical.
– For which the information on the boarding pass differs from that on the ID document
– Presence on a specific watch list, homonymity with a person on a list or wanted…
– With a suspicious past
– Whose ticket was booked at the last minute
– Any reason decided by the TSA according to its own judgment….
Finally, one can get SSSS in a totally random way without matching any criteria.
What can you expect when your boarding pass indicates SSSS?
The SSSS mark on your boarding pass means that you will be subject to a second in-depth safety inspection in addition to the normal one. It can take place at security checkpoints or at the gate, and its nature can vary from airport to airport.
First, expect your hand luggage to be thoroughly inspected. This means that each and every one of the objects they contain will be removed and inspected manually. You’ll also need to prove that your electronic devices are in working order.
Passengers will undergo a second pass through a metal detector, a detection of explosives on their hands and in their belongings, and a full and thorough security pat-down, up to and including a body search in case of doubt. Should the inspection become intimate or invasive, it will be carried out in a separate room.
Passengers may also be asked questions about the reasons for and organization of their trip, as well as any other subject deemed useful.
Everything is left to the discretion of the agents, who can keep the passenger for as long as they see fit, and carry out any necessary inspections and interrogations.
What to do if you are systematically “SSSS”?
Some people are systematically subjected to additional checks without any apparent justification. In these cases, don’t expect the TSA to tell you why.
But sometimes you may have been put on a systematic checklist by mistake, for the wrong reason (homonymy or other) etc. In this case, there is a process called the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, which allows you to be removed from the systematic checklist after a long and tedious procedure, and after providing a great deal of information.
This can take months, and if you win your case, don’t expect to learn why you were on the list or why you were removed.
SSSS on your boarding pass means that your profile warrants a thorough security check, which is not always pleasant. When this becomes systematic, it is possible to ask for your case to be examined, but this takes time.
Image : Wayan Vota