For sure this is something that nobody wants to see on their boarding pass. As flights are so popular, this means that a higher level of security is needed.
The so-called “fatal” code SSSS on your boarding pass when traveling within or to the US could mean additional screening when passing through security. The full SSSS code name stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection and simply means that the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its Secure Flight screening program has selected a passenger for additional security checks.
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.
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.
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.
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 when thousands of people died.