For the 50+ Traveler

As if everlasting and winding security screening queues at the airport weren't bad enough, you may now be selected for additional screening that can tack an additional 30 minutes onto the already dreadful security search.

If you see SSSS on your boarding pass, that means you've been chosen for additional security screening. Find out what this really means below, why you may have been selected, and what you can do to avoid this inconvenience altogether.

What does it mean to have SSSS on my boarding pass?

According to Business Insider, SSSS stands for "Secondary Security Screening Selection." This signifies that you have been selected by TSA's Secure Flight system for enhanced security screening.

If you see 'SSSS' on your boarding pass, that means that, unfortunately, you are required to partake in additional screening at security. The additional screening takes between 10 to 30 minutes, in which TSA agents may search your bags, pat you down, question you about your travel plans, and perform additional body scans.

Furthermore, Traveller explains that passengers who have SSSS on their boarding pass are restricted from certain normal airport habits, such as printing out their boarding passes at home.

If a passenger has SSSS on their boarding pass and intends to print their pass at home, they will receive an error message. The same thing will occur if attempting to print a boarding pass at a kiosk in the airport. Travelers with SSSS on their boarding pass are required to visit a counter, in order to verify their identification.

The worst part about receiving SSSS on a boarding pass is that many travelers don't have a clue what it means, and are thus ill-prepared for the delay it may cause at the airport.

Continue reading to find out why you may have been selected for additional security screening at the airport, and what you can do to avoid this hapless traveling nuisance.

US Airways ticket with SSSS on it
Know what it means to see SSSS on a boarding pass. Wikimedia Commons

Why was I selected to have SSSS on my boarding pass?

There are several reasons you may have been selected for additional security screening at the airport that you should be aware of.

The TSA claims that Secure Flight collects basic information, such as your full name, date of birth, and gender, then matches this information against watch lists such as the No Fly List and the Centers for Disease Control's Do Not Board List, to prevent people on those lists from boarding planes.

HuffPost also explains that travelers will receive this four-letter security screening code on a boarding pass if they appear on the FBI's counterterrorism watch list, but there are still many travelers who are not on this list and are still assigned the code at random.

Many travelers have noticed that the reason they have received SSSS on their boarding pass is that they have traveled to certain countries that may be considered "at risk" with regard to threats such as terrorism or infectious disease.

HuffPost points out that you may have been selected for additional screening if you booked your flight last minute, booked a one-way ticket, paid for your flight in cash, or are returning from a "high-risk" country.

Woman having her coat searched by security at airport checkpoint
Having SSSS on a boarding pass means additional security screening. Wikimedia Commons

What should I do if SSSS continues to appear on future boarding passes?

If you receive SSSS on a boarding pass once in a while and know that you are not, in fact, a high-risk passenger or involved in anything illegal like terrorism, don't fret about having to go through additional security screening at the airport. Just be aware that this does sometimes happen, and be sure to check your boarding pass before a flight to ensure that you're prepared and arrive at the airport early enough for the prolonged security screening.

If SSSS continues to show up on your boarding pass, you may have been put on a watch list by accident. In order to fix this problem, Lifehacker explains that if you continue to receive SSSS on a boarding pass, you can try applying for a redress number.

Requested through the Department of Homeland Security, redress numbers are for those who believe they have been put on a watch list by accident and may request to have their file corrected.

Another nifty way to avoid receiving the dreaded SSSS notification on a boarding pass is by demonstrating that you are a low-risk passenger. Travelers can prove that they are low-risk passengers by enrolling in the TSA PreCheck program.

TSA PreCheck is a five-year membership program that allows you to speed through security at the airport. Available to U.S. citizens, nationals, and LPRs, the program requires you to provide some personal information and, if approved, you pay $85 and won't have to remove your shoes, belts, jackets, laptops, or liquids when passing through airport security. Chances are, if you are a TSA PreCheck member, you won't be receiving SSSS on your boarding pass anytime soon.

If you're wondering whether or not TSA PreCheck is worth it, check out Is TSA PreCheck Worth The Money? If you already have TSA PreCheck and are curious about the details of your membership, be sure to read When Does TSA PreCheck And NEXUS Expire?