Passenger Boarding Passes with SSSS Require Additional Security Screening
By Chad Upton | Editor
For a while, I travelled every single week of the year (except for Christmas). Of all the new airports, airplanes, taxis, rental cars, hotels, motels, customs, passports, visas, bad restaurants and other necessities, airport security was the most stressful.
I have nothing to fear. I’m not on any watchlists, I don’t have a redress number, I literally don’t even take the free airline snacks with me (you have to declare them at all of the international border crossings I usually encounter).
Airport security is just a stressful environment. The lineups can be long, the people are uncomfortable and the process is more inconsistent than all of the necessities I mentioned above.
The hotels are probably the most consistent. I knew exactly which soap dish to expect beside the sink in any hotel chain I was en route to. But security, even in the US, is very inconsistent between Airports.
There are a number of scenarios that will earn you a pat down from the security agents. Perhaps the most surprising is if you have more than 3 oz of baby formula, milk or liquid/food in a single sealed container. At some airports they’ll only frisk the mother — I’ve stood there in multiple airports while they pat down my wife and don’t even look at me or the baby.
That’s why some people will say it’s security theatre; they say it’s just a show with too many plot holes to be considered real security. I don’t think that’s by design; if all of the airports consistently followed protocol then it wouldn’t be the production it has become.
There is one thing that will guarantee you a frisk: if your boarding pass has “SSSS” on it, you are a Secondary Security Screening Selectee. This flag normally comes from the TSA or the airline and can happen if you pay cash, buy a same-day or one-way ticket and of course “random” selection.
You may also be given a secondary screening at the TSA’s discretion.