What Does SSSS Mean On Your Boarding Pass?


Seeing the code “SSSS” on your boarding pass when traveling within or to the US could mean additional screening when passing through security.

A boarding pass with SSSS
What Does SSSS Mean On My Boarding Pass? Image: Simple Flying

Airport security checks are already time-consuming but let’s not forget they are there to protect everyone. The SSSS code stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection. It’s a code that means the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its Secure Flight screening program has selected a passenger for additional security checks.

Secondary Security Screening Selection in the US

Though the code SSSS may have been used for some time, its use hit mainstream news in 2017. A TSA spokesperson explained to Business Insider in a statement at the time:

SSSS stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection and it appears on a passenger’s boarding pass when they’ve been selected by TSA’s Secure Flight system for enhanced security screening.

Getting the code SSSS could just be random

The code is reportedly used when a passenger has appeared on certain security watchlists. The Independent mentions the FBI counter-terrorism watchlist called the Selectee list. However other passengers are assigned the code at random. And, it also may appear more often if flights are booked last minute or are one-way. It also may appear more often if flights are from a high-risk country.

The TSA says:

Secure Flight is a risk-based passenger pre-screening program that enhances security by identifying low and high-risk passengers before they arrive at the airport by matching their names against trusted traveler lists and watchlists.

A small price to pay for security

So, though it might be worrying it doesn’t necessarily mean cause for concern in terms of security watchlists. But, SSSS on your boarding pass could result in a more thorough search of your luggage, additional body scans, more questions, swabs for dangerous or prohibited materials, and full-body pat down by a security officer.

A necessary inconvenience
A necessary inconvenience. Image: Pixabay

The prospect of enhanced screening and even a pat-down might be daunting. That said, it is a small price to pay for overall air security. Innocent travelers have nothing to fear and should be reassured that bodies like the TSA use stringent methods to ensure maximum security.

The TSA Secure Flight program was a result of the laws put in place after 9/11. The program records basic personal information like name, date of birth, and gender. The information is used in its matching process.

In some cases, security screening is getting faster, not slower

SSSS on your boarding pass may mean a little delay and inconvenience. What it also means is that the TSA is doing its job. For frequent travelers the TSA operates a TSA Pre✓ program, once flyers are enrolled they can benefit from expedited security clearing at US airports.


Did you know there are still some commercial flights that don’t need boarding passes at all? Take this flight between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall, South West England, operated by Skybus. Some security processes are also getting easier for travelers with new technologies like biometric scanning.