If the code “SSSS” appears on your boarding pass to your flight to the US, you run the risk of your trip becoming a nightmare.
The code has long been in force, but its meaning had not been known until now now: SSSS stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection.
This harmless-looking code means that the boarding pass holder has been selected for a longer security control process that can take up to half an hour.
That control, which includes thorough verification of identity, thorough investigation of their personal effects – even those shipped in the warehouse – will be handled by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection uses the Terrorism Detection Center’s terrorism detection database to determine who qualifies for this Secondary Security Selection but some passengers who receive the code are randomly selected, so it can happen to any passenger .
Some behaviors that can prompt immediate assignment of the code, such as buying tickets with cash, travelling from somewhere classified as a ‘high-risk country,’ having previously received the code or being unable to print a boarding pass at one of the automated machines in an airport.
Here’s what happens if you find yourself subjected to the additional scrutiny.
First you’ll be taken to your own line where you’ll go through every security screening possible, including going through a metal detector and body scanner twice, and getting a full body pat-down.
Then security personnel will painstakingly go through your carry-on bags, with each item getting wiped down for explosive residue.
Eventually a form will be filled out, your boarding pass will be stamped and you’ll finally be allowed on your flight.
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