Do you hate to fly? Can you believe that people once loved to fly and it was seen as a luxury? Does sitting next to a crying baby while someone kicks the back of your chair while you are trying to eat a teeny tiny $20 sandwich sound like a luxury to you? And you know what is more annoying than the actual fight itself? The security measure we go through before we even get on the plane.
You wait patiently on that long line with your carry on and a million of your belongings because you refuse to pay to check a bag. Remember when you didn't have to do that? You finally get to the front of the line, you get checked by the TSA. They look at you. They look at your ID. They look at your boarding pass. They look back at you and then you are on to the next step.
You take out your liquids, take off your shoes and take your laptop out of its case. You've got this down to a science! It's finally your turn to go through the metal detectors. You've made it! You should be so proud. In just a minute you will be done right? Well, that is up to your boarding pass.
Your boarding pass is filled with all these secret codes that you may not even know about. Some of them are no big deal but if you see the letters “SSSS” on the bottom of your boarding pass, you are about to get some extra quality time with TSA, whether you like it or not.
If you have “SSSS” on your boarding pass, you have been pre-selected for an additional security screening.
According to a TSA spokesman, "SSSS stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection and it appears on a passenger’s boarding pass when they’ve been selected by TSA’s Secure Flight system for enhanced security screening."
The “SSSS” code has been around since 2010 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to TSA spokesman Mike England, travelers have reported seeing the “SSSS” code on their tickets before 2010, so it's possible another government program also used the code before 9/11.
So, you may be wondering how do they chose how you get an "SSSS" on your boarding pass. Not that you want one! The TSA explained that the first step is to identify who may be a low-risk passenger and who may be a high-risk passenger.
All high-risk passengers will get a second screening. The "SSSS" is printed if the person traveling appears on an FBI counterterrorism watchlist called the Selectee List. Do you think that you are off the hook? You are not. Others are also assigned the "SSSS" randomly as well.
England told Huffington Post, “Secure Flight is a risk-based passenger prescreening program that enhances security by identifying low and high-risk passengers before they arrive at the airport by matching their names against trusted traveler lists and watch lists.”
According to the TSA, Secure Flight will collect your basic personal information "necessary to conduct effective matching."
First the airport staff saw the code on her boarding pass and she was taken to the ticketing counter where they wrote “SSSS” as big and as bold as possible on her ticket in permanent marker. She then waited in line and when she got to the front of the line, TSA scanned her boarding pass which set off an alarm accompanied by red flashing lights. She was then asked to go through three different types of X-ray machines.
"The first was the normal kind, thin-framed, metal detector type," she explained. "The second and third were the circular, glass cage, Sci-Fi movie looking type -- and I bet you any money it did more than just check for metal."
They did swab tests on her entire body to check for explosives. They even checked between her toes and she was then subjected to a full body pat down.
If you have received an "SSSS" on your plane ticket, do not freak out. It is perfectly normal for travelers to get the “SSSS” code every once in a while. If it happens frequently you may want to look into it. Chances are that you may have been put on a watchlist by mistake. If you concerned, you can contact the government’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program regarding as issues relating to screening delays and to request a review. Good luck and safe travels!