ssss boarding pass. what does ssss mean on boarding pass

SSSS Boarding Pass: Prepare For One Extra Abusive Security Check

I got marked with the SSSS Boarding Pass on my first trip to the US. Here’s what is about to happen if you ever get it.

Got the SSSS boarding pass? No need to worry. You did nothing wrong. However, you need to know what to expect if you have the SSSS boarding pass. While this experience might differ from one airline and airport to another, here’s what happened to me when I got the S boarding when travelling to the US from Frankfurt airport with Lufthansa Airlines.

In April 2019, I made plans for my first trip to the US. I was excited to discover a new continent. But little did I know back then the amount of security and stress I was about to endure. I was naive and blessed in my own ignorance.

After many years of only dreaming of visiting New York City, I was invited by my cousin, who was then living in Manhattan, to pay her a visit. She knows how much I love to travel and that she lives by herself. As a side note, if you’re living in a cool place and you have friends who love to travel, please invite them to visit you. This is the best gift ever for a traveller.

Anyway, I was super excited, especially after going through the stressful process of getting a visa for the USA. While most Europeans don’t need an actual visa to visit the US (they use the ESTA system), Romanians still have to apply for a visa, pay for it ( almost $200), and schedule an appointment for a face-to-face interview at the Embassy in Bucharest. Here’s how I got my USA visa.

After all of that, I finally got my plane ticket to travel to the US for the first time.

And the day to travel has come. It was May 2019.

I got the SSSS boarding pass

Check-in online wasn’t available, and I initially thought there was something wrong with the system.

My flight was departing from Bucharest. I had a layover in Frankfurt, and then it would depart for the US.

I had no problem with the passport in Bucharest.

I figured they needed to check your US visa at the airport before printing your boarding pass. Since I had one layover on my way to New York City, I got both my boarding passes at the airport in Bucharest.

The one for New York had a strange print on it. The boarding pass for the US had an “SSSS” stamp in the top right corner. The “SSSS” print wasn’t anything I had seen before (or since) on a boarding pass.

To this day I have no idea what triggered the system to mark my boarding pass with SSSS. The only reason I can think of it because I travel a lot.

According to Wikipedia, you can be selected by the SSSS (Secondary Security Screening Selection) if you frequently travel to unusual destinations.

Source: Wikipedia

In November of that year, I went to Jordan; in December, I was in Indonesia; and in February, I was in India.

Here’s my SSSS boarding pass.

ssss boarding pass. what does ssss mean on boarding pass

You know something is wrong when you get literally marked by the system.

What does SSSS mean on boarding pass?

Apparently, “SSSS” is an abbreviation 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.”

The “SSSS” mark on your boarding pass means that before boarding the plane for the US, you will have to be thoroughly checked.

And that’s exactly what happened to me and why I couldn’t check in online in the first place.

SSSS boarding pass: What happens when your boarding pass is marked with SSSS?

When I arrived in Frankfurt, I followed the transit signs. But at the first checkpoint, an officer stopped me and asked me to follow him.

He took me to another big hall, which looked exactly the same as other airport security areas.

But this time, a lady came to ask me specific questions about my luggage. She asked me to remove all the usual stuff, liquids and electronic devices, but also shoes and clothes. I had to take my makeup out, because she specifically asked if I had any kind of powder in my luggage. I only had my makeup so she asked to see it.

She then proceeded to check my makeup powder as if it were some sort of restricted substance. She took various samples of my stuff, using that small piece of paper they used in the airport. She then put the small paper sample in the machine for forbidden substances (they have this in all airports, I just don’t know what it’s called).

Basically, all my stuff was unpacked and ready to be scanned.

After the scan, two officers checked my clothes and shoes for forbidden substances. I was barefoot at the moment, my heart was untied, and then a lady approached me and said she would perform a body search. Although we did wear gloves, the search was more thorough than any previous airport search I had ever experienced. She even checked my hair and my bare feet, checking in between my toes.

Then I waited for the officers searching through my stuff to finish.

Once this was over, I could put my stuff back in the backpack.

The few others around were used to the procedure, as apparently, some people get this every time and others never. It’s odd how some people who travelled way more than I do never get the SSSS on their boarding pass. This is the case with my cousin, who now lives in the US. She never got the SSSS.

And that was the moment I realized why the layover when travelling to the US needed to be longer than a couple of hours. Because you go through countless checkpoints, machines or humans check you every time you take a turn.

Getting to my gate after the SSSS check

It was extremely tiring to get to the terminal. Once I got there, I was shocked to see another security checkpoint. And a small area for the SSSS boarding passes.

I had to scan my boarding pass once more, and once more, I was asked to step aside and follow an officer to a small area made out of temporary panels to get checked. This time, I didn’t have to get all my staff out from my carry-on, but they did another body search, checked my scalp and feet, all the same.

At this point, I was tired and sleepy. But there was no place to sleep. The waiting area at the gate was getting full. Frankfurt airport is huge, and the fact that they make you walk from one side to the other through all those checkpoints is crazy.

The first high hall where they checked me was literally on the other side of the airport, opposite the gate I was supported to get to. By the end of this, I was exhausted, feeling like I had just run a marathon, with my laptop backpack hanging in front and a huge backpack carry-on on my back.

But the I saw a huge aeroplane outside the window. I was shocked to realise that it was the plane from my gate. It was an Airbus a380-800 and it was getting ready for me to get on, to fly me to New York City.

The nightmare was over, and the American adventure was about to begin. Well, first, I had to spend nine hours cramped inside while I flew over the Atlantic Ocean, but still, I was going places.

In 2024, I did another budget trip to the US.

But this time, it was to Miami, with a low-cost airline. Here’s my French Bee airline review after flying with them from Paris to Miami.

SSSS boarding pass lufthansa flight to the US

I was going to board on the largest passenger plane at the moment. I was going to New York City.

Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog,

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