It sucks, next question.

All around the world, in every language known to man – there are four letters which ruin an air travelers day. For some, it can be far worse. SSSS is the universal air travel symbol for long day ahead. It means you’ve been singled out for additional security, scrutiny and headache. Here’s what it means, how to get rid of it and what to expect.

Why Me?

Perhaps you booked a one way ticket, last minute ticket or have had some wacky itineraries in your last few months. It’s all irrelevant once the SSSS appears on your boarding pass. Last minute tickets, one way tickets and obscure countries are the most common way to receive the badge of horror known as SSSS. They can also happen when your passport information doesn’t match the ticket closely enough. If none of these apply, consider yourself unlucky. The first thing to know is you need to relax – and be patient.

What Will Happen?

It can vary, but basically – you’ll be “randomly” selected for additional security, questioning at every checkpoint. An early sign you’ve been tagged is not being able to check in online. If this is the case, always arrive early. Your carry on baggage, personal item and any electronic items will undergo additional scrutiny and be swab checked. You’ll probably be pat down, multiple times. At the boarding gate, you will likely get another final search, especially on international flights.

Will It Keep Happening?

This totally depends. I’ve had plenty of SSSS, either because my passport name didn’t perfectly match my ticketed name, I booked a one way fare, or a last minute seat. In all cases the SSSS was gone on my next trip. But if your travel takes you to places where your government may have questions, for example a US Citizen visiting Pakistan – it can follow you around.

How Do You Get Rid Of It?

There’s a website – and it’s actually fairly easy. DHS Trip is a site dedicated to people who have regular issues flying, have been denied boarding, entry or have been selected for SSSS and other issues. You simply fill out the form, answer some questions and within 4 weeks the ruling will come in the mail. In most cases – this resolves any future SSSS issues, and you’ll be good to go.

Have you had a SSSS? If so, why?!