a passport and a passport with blue marker

Having SSSS on your boarding pass sucks, next question.

All around the world, in every language known to man – there are four letters which ruin an air travelers day, or at least add a little bit of extra personal touch to it. SSSS is the universal air travel symbol for a slightly longer day of flying ahead, because you’ve been flagged for additional security screening.

It means you’ve been singled out based on something arbitrary like when you booked your ticket, or something more interesting. Here’s what SSSS means, how to maybe get rid of it and what to expect.

a crowd of people in a terminalWhy Did I Get SSSS On My Boarding Pass?

Perhaps you booked a one way ticket, last minute ticket or have had some wacky flight itineraries in your last few months, perhaps even to countries deemed questionable. Or, maybe your name is similar to someone on a wanted, or watch list, and you’ve just been unlucky. It’s all irrelevant once the SSSS appears on your boarding pass.

SSSS on your boarding pass means additional pat me downs, swabs of your belongings and 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, which signifies to security scanners and boarding gate staff that you’ll need to undergo extra checks, for safety. For safe flying all around the world, it’s a small price to pay, but it’s still an annoyance.

The dreaded SSSS can also happen when your passport information doesn’t match the ticket name closely enough, so always be sure to match the name on your airline ticket identically to the name on your passport.

If none of these apply, and you still have SSSS, consider yourself unlucky. The first thing to know is you need to relax – and be patient. It’ll be over soon enough and you’ll still be flying in almost every instance. SSSS just means more security, not a flying ban. There’s a different list for that!

What Happen At The Airport If You Get SSSS?

It can vary, but basically, if you have SSSS on your airline boarding pass – you’ll be “randomly” selected for additional security and questioning at every checkpoint that exists. For international flights, that typically means more checks than a domestic flight where you’ll only get checked once.

In reality, SSSS on a boarding pass is usually just an extra pat down at the boarding gate, or a random sample check at TSA or airport security. This means the TSA or other security agents may swab your clothes and anything inside your bags for drugs, explosives and so forth.

An early sign you’ve been tagged with SSSS additional screening is not being able to check in online, but due to covid-19 travel entry restrictions, this is less true than it was before.

If this is the case, where you can’t check in online, 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. 

a passport and a ticket on a tableWill SSSS 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 after just one unlucky trip.

If however you’ve been to countries which are in crisis, or you recently 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, since you’ve been flagged as “suspect”. You’ll need to apply for a “redress” number, if so.

How Do You Get Rid Of SSSS On Boarding Passes?

If you’re constantly getting SSSS on your boarding pass, and don’t believe you should, there’s a website to help get rid of it, and it’s 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 SSSS on your boarding pass? Share your story!

SSSS on boarding pass

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. You can not git rid of SSSS, I opened DHS Trip and got a TSA precheck, all approved. Still every time I fly in from the outside United States I get SSSS, never failed me.
    Inside the US I get TSA preCheck and use global entry.
    Good thing is when I travel with wife, I give her all my stuff before my search in front of the agents eyes, and then they perform a search.

  2. Yes I have had them multiple times! Working on cruise ships you always have oneway tickets and your start one country end up in another country and no record of passing a border. One time i asked for a reprint of my bordingpass “as i lost it” and it did not show on the reprint!. This is a couple of years ago and dont know if this trick still works.

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