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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 slightly longer day ahead. It means you’ve been singled out for additional security, scrutiny and headache based on something arbitrary like when you booked your ticket, or something more interesting. Here’s what SSSS means, how to get rid of it and what to expect.

Why Did I Get SSSS On My Boarding Pass?

Perhaps you booked a one way ticket, last minute ticket or have had some wacky itineraries in your last few months to countries which are deemed questionable. It’s all irrelevant once the SSSS appears on your boarding pass. It means additional pat me downs and perhaps a few more questions are on the way.

Last minute tickets, one way tickets and obscure countries are the most common way to receive the badge of horror known as SSSS. The dreaded SSSS can also happen when your passport information doesn’t match the ticket name closely enough. If none of these apply, consider yourself unlucky. The first thing to know is you need to relax – and be patient. It’ll be over soon and you’ll still be flying.

What Will Happen At The Airport?

It can vary, but basically – you’ll be “randomly” selected for additional security and questioning at every checkpoint. It’s usually just an extra pat down at the boarding gate, or a random sample check at TSA or airport security.

An early sign you’ve been tagged with SSSS additional screening is not being able to check in online.

If this is the case, always arrive early to the airport to ensure things go smoothly and you get on your way on time. 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 I grabbed a last minute seat. In these cases the SSSS typically goes away. If however you’ve been to countries which are in crisis, or had trouble with the law it may very well last longer. For example a US Citizen visiting Pakistan may find that it can follow you around for a while.

How Do You Get Rid Of SSSS On Boarding Passes?

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.

If this is necessary, after seeing an SSSS on multiple trips, you’ll get a redress number, which helps to identify you and eliminate this need over time.

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

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