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Going through airport security is, according to many, a necessary evil. We have to stand in mile-long lines that seem to snake around in endless coils, we have to pop off our shoes only to put them back on and we occasionally take in unwanted radiation from those human scanning machines. And that’s just for the lucky travellers — the unlucky ones are selected for an even more thorough security check.

But there is a way to tell whether or not you’ve been ‘randomly’ selected for extra screening in advanced when you’re travelling in the States.

The next time you see the letters ‘SSSS’ printed at the bottom of your boarding pass, expect to spend some extra time being scrutinized by the TSA.


“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,” a TSA representative told us. “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 traveller lists and watchlists.”

People with those dreaded four letters on their boarding passes can be swabbed for different residues, pat down and have their luggage thoroughly searched.

“Secure Flight transmits the screening instructions back to the airlines to identify low-risk passengers eligible for TSA [Prescreening]; individuals on the Selectee List who are designated for enhanced screening; and those who will receive standard screening,” the representative explained. “Secure Flight also prevents individuals on the No Fly List and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Do Not Board List from boarding an aircraft.”

Anyone who paid for a ticket in cash, has travelled to specific countries or only bought a one-way ticket has a higher chance of being selected for extra screening.

A spokesperson from the TSA told The Huffington Post that even passengers who don’t pose any risk can randomly get the SSSS code printed on their tickets.

On the bright side, dealing with extra screening is still probably faster than driving to your destination. If you manage to make your flight, that is.