'SSSS', the code that you won't want on your boarding pass

Airlines have secret codes that not all of us know. If your boarding pass has 'SSSS', you have been 'selected'.

Airlines have some codes that not all of us know, many of them to communicate between the flight personnel without the passengers knowing it as a security measure. For example, the '7500' is used when the pilot realizes that the plane has been hijacked or 'Adam' which is used to communicate that a child is missing. But there is one that no passenger wants to have on their boarding pass: the SSSS code.

What is the SSSS on the boarding pass?

Check your boarding pass very well. If it is marked with 'SSSS' it means that you have been randomly chosen to go through more extensive security controls than the rest of the passengers. So be prepared to lose at least twenty minutes in a rather annoying interrogation review.


SSSS stands for 'Security Supervision Secondary Selection', normally this inspection applies to people flying to the United States.

Nobody likes to go through security filters. Between carrying hand luggage, taking off jackets, metal objects, in some airports even your shoes, looking impatiently at the one in front and doing it quickly so that the one behind you does not see you in the same way… If you have the code 'SSSS' on your boarding pass, this process will be much worse.


They have to review you thoroughly. Technically there is no way to remove or not be 'the chosen one' from that code; it is a random selection. But if you buy a one-way flight or pay cash, you are much more likely to be marked for this secondary inspection. If you refuse, they will immediately prohibit you from boarding.

There is a way to predict (which is not always effective) that they will mark your boarding pass. In general, the people who have been chosen cannot check-in online and ask them to do so directly at the counter. In the same way, the TSA conducts a passenger inspection before any trip, if you share a name with a banned person who is on the 'no-fly list', prepare to be inspected more carefully.


How is the inspection carried out if your boarding pass has the code 'SSSS'?

According to the travel blog One Mile at a Time, before entering the band inspection, a person checks your boarding pass and identification. 

If it detects the code, they will call an agent and initiate an invasive inspection of your luggage. In the next 30 minutes or so, they will go through everything in your suitcase carefully. If they don't like something you have, they’ll throw it away. 


You will go through the metal detector and the full-body scanner twice as well as a 'pat down' or 'slap' check where an officer will check different parts of your body while you stand with your arms outstretched. Yes, they can touch buttocks, breasts, and crotch but they have to let you know before doing so. 

According to the TSA, officers must be of the same gender as the client being inspected; one doing the inspection and the other observing. You can request to be accompanied.


Is it really a random choice?

The authorities swear is random, but users on social media have accused the airlines of racism or discrimination by finding the patterns we talked about earlier.

Sometimes it has happened to public personas who have shared it on their social networks, such as blogger Nomadic Matt who confessed that he had the code after booking last minute; or Rami Ismail, the video game developer, who in 2018 shared that the random verification percentage on the six flights to the United States that he had taken in that year was above 80% and he shared a photo of his boarding pass to Boston marked with SSSS.


"The randomness of US border security is so predictable," he wrote.

This practice began after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11. They needed an extra measure to monitor potentially dangerous people.

Translated by Mariana R. Fomperosa

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