What to Expect When You Have SSSS On Your Boarding Pass

Some of you might remember the "fun" time I had when I traveled back home from Cabo. On my Instagram stories I mentioned that I recieved a full-pat down when I went through security during my flight from LAX to Dallas. 


I honestly should've seen the additional security screening coming. All of the signs were there but I didn't pay attention. I had received an SSSS on my boarding pass and didn't realize it until after the fact. Have you ever heard of an SSSS? Have you ever received one? Here's my story and what you can expect. 

What's an SSSS

SSSS stands for "Secondary Security Screening Selection." It basically means that you aren't going to be able to walk through the scanner, get your luggage, and go. Your air carrier has chosen you to receive a secondary security screening for a variety of reasons. Granted, some SSSS's are random, but there are some triggers. 

What Causes an SSSS?

  • Booking last-minute plane tickets
  • Purchasing one-way international plane tickets
  • It can be random
  • You can be on some sort of "list" 

I was guilty of two items on this list. We had originally booked our departing flight to Cabo on Spirit and planned to return on Alaska Airlines. I received an email from Spirit the night before our trip stating that our flight had been cancelled. I scrambled to find a departing flight and ending up booking a flight on an Alaska Airlines. Although we'd be departing and returning on Alaska we had two one-way international tickets. This triggered a flag on Alaska's end. I had no problems boarding the plane on our way to Cabo but ran into some problems returning. 


The First Red Flag

When we arrived at the Cabo airport to return home, I tried to do self service check in. I received a message saying that I'd have to go to the counter. I didn't think anything of it, and the check-in agent didn't ask anything out of the ordinary. I never looked down at my boarding pass and went through security as usual. When I arrived at the gate to board the plane, the agent scanned my boarding pass and told me that I had to have my bag searched. I was shocked! Everyone else boarded the plane and stared at me like I was public enemy number one. I stood at the gate, while a Mexico customs agent went through my bag. She finally gave the agent the OK and I boarded the plane. 

Once I sat down I looked at both of my boarding pass and finally noticed the SSSS! I already knew that I was probably going to have an issue when connecting in Los Angeles. Once we arrived, I mentally prepared myself for a pat-down. 

Arriving at LAX

I had no issues going through customs, but encountered a problem once I got to the security line. As soon as the TSA agent scanned my boarding pass, he requested a supervisor. I've watched too many episodes of Locked Up Abroad and expected the worst. The supervisor came over and told me that my airline requested that I receive additional security screening. At least he was being honest.

If you've ever received a pat-down then you know the drill. They asked me if I wanted to go in the "naughty" room but I declined. I figured that I might as well entertain everyone else that was standing in the TSA line. One agent searched my bag, while another gave me a thorough pat-down. I walked through the body scanner, and my hands were swabbed. The supervisor looked on and made small talk. The agents were nice but took everything out of my bag, swabbed my hands, and even gave my wig a nice little pat. 

The Aftermath

15 minutes later, I was on my way. The supervising TSA agent gave my boarding pass a red stamp and made some notes on a clipboard. I was told that if I lost my boarding pass, he'd have to physically come over to the gate to verify that I received the additional screening before I could board. Alaska Airlines wasn't playing any games with me. I was a little nervous when it was time to board the plane, but no questions were asked. 

What You Need to Keep In Mind

1. Your Traveling Companions Booked On the Same Reservation Might Not Receive It.  Although my husband and I were booked on the same reservation, he didn't receive an SSSS but I did. I can only assume that I received the secondary screening since I booked the tickets and he was my traveling companion. 

2. Know The Red Flags. If you can't do online check-in or print your boarding pass, then it might be a sign that you will have to receive a secondary screening. 

3. Be Cooperative. The last thing I wanted to do was to draw extra attention to my situation by getting an attitude. The entire process added an extra 15 minutes to my time in the security line. One agent gave me a pat-down, while the other agent went through my bags. The supervisor watched everything. Thankfully, the agents were respectful and did a nice job repacking my bag. Try to be as courteous as the situation allows. 

4. You'll be Asked to Power-On Your Electronics. I was told to make sure that my cell phone was on as it went through the scanner. Thankfully, my husband was carrying my laptop which saved me some time. If you have electronics, give them to your traveling companion before you approach the security line. This can help speed up the process. 

5. Always Review Your Boarding Pass. I would've been better prepared for the situation had I taken a few seconds to review my boarding pass. The airport agents gave me no indication that I'd need additional screening and most of the time they won't. 

 Have you ever experienced a secondary security screening? I'd love to hear your stories! Drop a comment below and let me know!