SSSS and Redress

Have you ever gotten the 4 S’s on the top corner of your boarding pass? The first time it happens, it’s a curiosity. You might not even notice.

What does this mean?

It stands for a Secondary Security Screening Selection. And it truly is a pain in the butt.

It means that you are never going to go through TSA pre-check.  It means that you can expect to get pulled out of line for the additional screening including rummaging through your belongings, testing your shoes for explosives, additional pat-downs (a.k.a. getting felt up by brusque TSA employees). And that even when you’ve made it through the main TSA screening with an ounce of dignity, you will likely be pulled out just moments before boarding your flight for another screening by the gate. It means you can’t relax until you are literally on the plane.

I had this SSSS mark on all of my airline tickets for a couple of years! It got to the point where I would check in all my bags except for a purse which basically only held my ID, my ticket and some cash. For some people, SSSS selection is random, and for others, it flags a permanent SSSS status.

This was my new normal. Until one day, a TSA worker took pity on me and told me how to undo the SSSS mess.

The process is simple. Apply for a “Redress Number” through the US Department of Homeland Security. Apparently, you just fill out forms and wait….

At the time I filled out the paperwork (2018), they stated it could take up to 50 days to complete the process. Yet as soon as I applied, I immediately received a temporary redress number. I was also informed that I could call the airlines that I was already booked with and give them my redress control number to add to my tickets, even though it was not completely processed yet.

I eventually received my “determination letter” stating that my redress number was approved!

Why did I get targeted for SSSS? I flew internationally with an open-jaw flight (the first one of the SSSS flights was this way) and perhaps that flagged my ticket. However, my husband has never been flagged for SSSS and we were on the same flight. My hunch is that my maiden name was close enough to someone on the US watch list.

But it’s only a guess. Homeland Security is not going to give away their reasons why they do what they do.

So, I am left with never knowing why I was marked with SSSS, but am so happy EVERY time I get my TSA pre-check mark on my boarding pass! It’s such a simple thing but it means so much… that I don’t have to check all my baggage, that I can get through the security checkpoint and relax prior to my flight, and most importantly, as someone who has no criminal record, that I feel like my country trusts me.

So, hopefully this information is helpful for you, too, dear traveler. Bon Voyage!