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SSSS = She Sure Seems Suspicious (miserable trip back to the USA)

Aaaack. I have TSA-Precheck, which still didn't prevent them pulling me out of line to swab my hands, both in SFO and in Munich. Yuck! Is it because I'm a nervous looking flyer? I'm kind of discombobulated, and I know that, maybe they look for that. I am an experienced hand at "being in Europe" but I'm a little bit uncoordinated getting there.

I completely rebuke, disavow and repudiate anyone who says changing planes in Munich is a good idea. Horrible experience. Boarded in Basel, landed in Munich to change planes for SFO; we were bused in and had to show passports, boarding tix going into terminal X, then all pooled inside, and there were attendants who gave complicated directions to the other terminal - and I swear that the arrow to the Gate pointed right to a menswear duty-free shop.... I was also under the impression that we would land and re-board at the same terminal - nope. So again, going through the second boarding - yep - "SSSS" on the boarding pass, (which stands for the title above.) "Come with me, please, Miss..."

The Lufthansa Airbus-380-600 was nice and new, and pretty quiet, and a smooth flyer. And the crew were very nice. And they gave me a free Gin and Tonic. That's where the compliments end. I had an aisle seat in economy, and had been smugly reveling in the fact that 24 hours before, when I checked the seating arrangement, there were no people sitting in my row!! Jackpot! So imagine my surprise when the entire plane was completely full. Next to me was a young girl who got separated from her boyfriend, who sat in back of her. When she asked me if I would change places with her boyfriend, I gave her a sad smile and said, "No, I booked this aisle seat so I could stretch. Tell me, did you just buy your ticket yesterday?" And yes, she had.

The meal - remember when I asked you all for help in selecting the meal? Well, I should have bought some sort of sandwich in MUNICH, but remember I had been SSSS'd and couldn't get out of the boarding area to go for food!! That Lufthansa meal selection only told us what the meal was NOT: Want no milk? Order dairy free. Want no flour? Order gluten free. So the lunch was a garlicky pasta/cheese. Yuck Yuck. My fault for that one - Breakfast in Basel was only coffee and pretzels or croissants, which I had.

The seats in economy are so close that your knees touch the seat in front of you. Horrible. The aisle chair-arm doesn't move, so it would be a disaster if people had to move quickly out of there, because you can't stand up straight. And I'm not big or tall. I twisted my knee a little bit going in. There should be regulations..... oh, and about recline: in the Airbus I flew in, there was only about 5 degrees of recline, really only one inch, there was no recline to speak of.

In the plane, they advertised WiFi for 9 EU per hour. And at the airport, I was angry to find out that you had to register all your information - and I wasn't going to do that, so I had no WiFi there, either.

So no, I'm not going to go from Basel to MUC to SFO any more. And I hope you don't, either.

Posted by
2841 posts

I'm sorry you had such an uncomfortable flight. My husband thinks airlines make the Coach experience so unpleasant to punish people for buying the cheaper tickets.

Posted by
6570 posts

We all know where you're coming from.
But we are so glad you had the experience of world travel. And tell us that you'll be back next year.
My knees touch the seat too, but I'm 6'3". And for the price of Business Class, I could fly over there 3 to 4 times in steerage.

Posted by
172 posts

Your trip sounds like our recent experience in Barcelona! We did not have poor directions to the connecting flight - we had no direction. The plane landed, we were sent to a bus, went through customs, and then...no help at all. Even the information booth was empty at 11:00am on a Wednesday. A clerk at a money changing station sent us out of doors where we walked to another terminal, went through security and back through customs! Our plane was held for almost an hour because 19 people were pulled from line for additional screening. So, do not transfer planes in Munich, Frankfort, Barcelona... I would love to hear about good experiences.

Posted by
1178 posts

Um, this sounds well within "normal" flying these days. Nothing serious or major.
I'd say it's your expectations that are out of alignment.

Posted by
8293 posts

Well. You did have a miserable trip back to the USA But, look at it this way ... it was just a few hours out of a lifetime and the meal, which was so important to you, was probably the only bad meal you will have this year. I hope there were many good things about your trip, enough to cancel out the miserable flight experience memories.

Posted by
1952 posts

I, too, am sorry you had such a miserable flight. Personally, I do like flying through Munich, making my European connections from there. In May, I flew LH out of Denver nonstop to Munich, changed to a flight to Berlin and reversed the process for my return home-nary a problem or complaint. The end of August, I flew (LH again) from Denver to Munich and changed for a LH flight to Prague, returning LH from Lubljana, changed flights in Munich and flew LH from Munich home to Denver, non stop. In spite of the extra time needed for the added security check for the flight from MUC back to the States, I had no issues. I think it's so much easier (for me anyway) to return to the US through MUC rather then Frankfurt! I'm "old" (but flexible!), short and as long as I curl up, fit OK in the aisle seat I requested and was assigned. Yes, the food is AWFUL. I try to bring on my own, if possible. Yes, uncomfortable seating but not a huge deal to me. But then, with my flights, I wasn't subjected to the SSSS+S (I'd add a couple more Ss for.. Special Scrutiny), so I didn't experience the issues you did. Luck of the draw for me, I'm sure, and I expect I won't always be so lucky in spite of the Global Entry (including Pre Check) I have. What a pain for you; again, you have my sympathies for all you experienced. With any luck, maybe airline travel for all of us will improve in the near future-but I'm not holding my breath! Hopefully, your next flight will proceed more smoothly!

Posted by
5011 posts

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your flight, but honestly, nothing you describe is outside the norm - this is what you should expect these days when things go well. It sounds to me like things actually did go fairly well for you:- no long delays, no missed connections, no lost luggage, nobody hurt or maimed, nothing worse than today's standard price-driven coach experience.

When you shopped for a flight, was price the primary criteria (or the only criteria) you used in your selection? We can blame the evil airlines (go ahead, I won't object) but they are simply giving the flying public what the flying public increasingly demands: low, low prices above any other consideration. Keep asking for flights to Europe that cost less than an expensive night on the town, and this is what you get.

BTW, as noted above, "Precheck" is a TSA program, and the TSA does not generally operate in Europe. Besides, having Precheck is no guarantee your won't get the dreaded SSSS on your boarding pass - the TSA intentionally pulls an unknown number of random Precheck folks out and denies them the precheck treatment. And the SSSS routine is a whole other thing.

Posted by
7717 posts

Some of the checks are random. Some are because you flew to a flagged destination recently, or a circuitious route, or last minute ticket....

Posted by
2317 posts

At least they gave you a "free" gin and tonic.

I'm in a bit of snit myself. I used American Airlines miles to fly business class on British Airways from Austin to London. After checking in, I learned that British Airways doesn't participate in the TSA Pre-Check program; so we'll have to line up with the great unwashed masses to get through security.

Posted by
11613 posts

About the Duty Free/Gate signage: I have noticed this at several airports recently. Think "maximize profit".

Posted by
5366 posts

I will agree with others, while you may not have enjoyed your experience, it is not that out of the line, but by no means does it mean that the average experience is miserable. To point out some things....

Yep, TSA precheck is US only, even then, getting pulled out for further check is random and normal, no use fretting about it.

Never expect that just because a seating chart shows open seats, or for that matter entire sections empty that you will have extra seats, in fact, travelling to Europe 1 to 2 times a year, day before often shows a bunch of seats available with then a packed flight. Sometimes tour groups and ultra cheap seats that are not reserved, sometimes last minute or standby, but nearly all transatlantic flights are 90+% full. As for a free G&T, Delta will give you several.

Meal? that was discussed, I tend to be able to eat or not eat anything; but will get something if I feel I need to, the airline meal is only a bonus, not a culinary treat.

As for comfort in economy, sounds normal to me, I do not expect much more. If I did, I would upgrade to a higher class.

As for future flights, maybe fly a different airline, but do not expect anything vastly different (except for maybe a second G&T) and route has really nothing to do with it.

Posted by
258 posts

While I am not flush with funds, I do spend considerable time in arguing with myself whether to pony up the extra funds to fly business class. I am only 5'2" and find economy flying for anything over 4 hours to be absolute torture (and that was even before seat sizes and seat backs were even further reduced to accommodate children only).

So I pay the extra for business and find myself much more rested on arrival to Europe. I see the added expense as quality over quantity. Right now, I can only take one trip per year. Maybe when I completely retire, I may change my philosophy but somehow I doubt it. I save money in other ways by staying at less expensive but perfectly adequate hotels, limit my purchases to things I really want and not just stuff from X,Y,Z, eat relatively cheaply, use public transportation, and walk. Right now, this style works for me.

I have also been pulled out of the line at Munich, even with a delayed flight from Rome and then the bus to the terminal. I don't try to stress about it. I know I have nothing on me that would be a cause for alarm and figure if I miss my flight because of the added screening, the airlines will make it right. BTW, I always travel on a through ticket.

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi,

Very true about seats in Economy. I know, those are the tickets I always buy. Most of the time my flights going/returning are completely full, basically packed in a sardine can in Economy. I've had it where the aisle chair-arm does not move. Well, I'll have to be on the look -out if I am so delightfully designated with SSSS when I fly BA this week.

Posted by
323 posts

Flying is just on fun any more!!! and it is more like a horrible experience. I was pulled out of line twice on my way to Raleigh from Dallas and on my return trip also. Random chance, I was told.. What a pain in the a$$. My husband and I both have TSA pre check but I'm beginning to think that is a joke perpetrated on us unsuspecting fliers.

Posted by
2262 posts

About the empty seats when you checked in. The Luftthansa flight from Philly to Frankfurt is our favorite flight. Seems very few people pay for the economy seats in advance, so when you checked in when check in opened 24 hours out, you were one of the first to choose or be assigned seats. And saw an empty plane. There was no reason to think the next seats would remain unselected or unassigned. We even scored premium economy bulkhead last month by being first to check in.

Posted by
6857 posts

About the empty seats when you checked in... Seems very few people pay for the economy seats in advance, so when you checked in when check in opened 24 hours out, you were one of the first to choose or be assigned seats. And saw an empty plane. There was no reason to think the next seats would remain unselected or unassigned

for sure; you should not get your hopes high about the seats u selected not unless your boss or some rich person paid for you to ride in business or 1st class .

this is how it went when I worked at an airline:

we were always looking for empty seats on other planes in our alliance and rebooking passengers in the empty seats you saw when we knew in advance we would have delayed passengers

Posted by
362 posts

I finally paid for TSA PreCheck along with my other half. So far on our US flights, we've managed 50% of them with the ideal PreCheck experience. 50% have required a very intimate experience with the TSA. I suspect I'm not going to get my money's worth out of this, but at least I know it's not just me!

Posted by
106 posts

Sorry for your misery. I always reserve an aisle seat. Now that I think about it, I am always asked if I will change my seat. Except for the time I sat next to a guy I swear rode his bike to the airport and smelled like it. I am really tired of saying no to people. One lady with a huge dog asked me to move so the dog would have more room.

Posted by
186 posts

I am not wealthy enough to pay for business class as and have never paid for one. Will not go into the details of strategic planning using credit card bonus offers, because websites such as Flyertalk, One Mile at a Time, Cheap Travel Guy will offer many ways to accomplish this. But I have flown business class to Europe 2 times each year since 2013 and never paid full fare.Now I'm in Spain used AA business class and will return from Madrid on Lufthansa business class. Makes the journey pleasant and not an ordeal.

Posted by
11613 posts

Just a note that some US airports don't have Pre-Check, either.

Posted by
2650 posts

My experience:

Munich Airport: In general, I really like the Munich airport. I changed planes there each way on a round trip from the US to Vienna, using a Delta ticket to get to Munich and a Lufthansa/Air Austria ticket to get to Vienna (the 2nd ticket was cheap, so I was willing to eat it and take a train if there were delays on the inbound flight, but my experience is that such delays are pretty uncommon on Delta). For me, transferring between concourses wasn't anything out of the ordinary for larger European airports.

TSA Precheck: I get this US-only benefit with Global Entry, which I consider $100 well-spent. I've been selected for extra "security activities" exactly two times out of probably 50 trips through the TSA PreCheck line.

Posted by
1967 posts

Shelley,

Just a few weeks ago in September, I had the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass at Heathrow airport and received additional screening at the gate to my plane, including having to take off my shoes which I was not required to do at the first screening. It is a matter of random selection I think because my friend traveling with me, did not have SSSS on her boarding pass.

Posted by
5366 posts

Just a note that some US airports don't have Pre-Check, either.

And in some smaller airports that do, just doing normal security can be faster. At my airport the Precheck line can be backed up with, well...lets just say "elderly" first time travelers.

"All metal out of your pockets?"
"Yep"
Beep, beep, beep....
"Yes, Sir your keys are metal, anything else?
"Nope"
Beep, beep, beep...
"Sir, your phone is metal...."
Repeat about three more times

Posted by
2127 posts

I think it's hard to generalize on airports and airlines. On two of my recent trips to Europe I had to switch planes at CDG and JFK, two airports I try to avoid. And to make matters worse, my flight times were changed, giving me less than 90 minutes for each connection. Well, what do you know - both times everything went super smoothly and we had time to spare, especially at CDG. Should I conclude that CDG is a great airport for connections? No, I was just lucky.

Posted by
293 posts

@ Norma - "Important meal" - -yes, I tried to arrange that ahead of time but just could not do it!

@ Paul ; LOL, that is sort of me, too - - to the dreaded consternation of everyone behind me, discombobulated, raincoat swirling around me, big purse, small purse, neckroll, ugh - - - -
@ Tom, yes, in Basel, I received both boarding passes. Basel = no SSSS, Munich, there it was. Your experience sounds horrible, flashing the rivets on your pants - ugh. I received wanding, explosives swabbing, shoe reasearch, and peering into my carryons; your experience sounds horrible-er than mine by a looooong shot.

Re: seats that appeared vacant - YES! Huge part of my crestfallen-ness! Dang! Especially since I had an empty 3-seater from United on the way over, stretched out and slept like a baby.

My complete enjoyment of the hotels and cities AND WEATHER on my trip more than made up for the flight misery. The bruise on my leg is still there to remind me that you can't stand up straight, can't get out of your seat without grabbing the headrest of the seat ahead of you, can't exit without a twist and a contortion. But as soon as the evidence of my personal maimage is gone, I can then get on with my life.

And plan my next trip in 2019.

Which will probably be Amsterdam for the art and architecture and strolling quality.

Posted by
12400 posts

@ Shelley.. Thanks. .That vier mal S, ie, SSSS, sounds it was tailored for you to mean the following: " Sie sind sicherlich ein Sicherheitsverstoß. " ( I couldn't resist...lol)

Posted by
15 posts

The SSSS seems to get added when you've flown to "suspicious" countries recently. (See this post: https://thepointsguy.com/2015/10/the-ssssaga-is-finally-over/) Have you visited Turkey or other middle eastern or south-asian countries recently? As for everything else, it seems like a normal flight. You had to transfer to the international terminal, had an annoying seat mate, had bad airline food, and the seats are small and you weren't willing to pay for WiFi. None of this sounds terrible. In fact, it's all normal. Be glad you weren't delayed 6 hours, or dragged off your flight because it was overbooked.

Posted by
12400 posts

@ Shelley ...On flying to England this week and the return flight, I will be looking for that "vier mal S" , never had that special designation, let alone even knew of it. I've never been pulled out of line, called into the "small room" ie, nothing out of the ordinary. The TSA folks must see me as a non-entity, not worth the energy dealing with.

I opt for the "pat down" instead of the peek a boo machine, have always avoided that machine. However, I have seen people, ie women who had both...that machine and the pat down.

Posted by
315 posts

TSA pre with Delta @ FCO applied. It did not matter there was no line!

Posted by
7717 posts

Don't get too excited about the S, the pats or questions, people. Most of it is random. It's delaying a lot of planes, so plan accordingly. Now, that's something to get excited about. Of course the plane delays are helping all those people with late connecting flights due to hightened security. Flying today is miserable and international is the worst. Welcome to the club, Shelley.

Posted by
396 posts

Does this SSSS business apply only to US citizens? I noticed that The Points Guy thought it was linked to his trip to Turkey, and others corroborated that. I'm planning a trip to Georgia that will involve a connection at Istanbul, but I'm not a US citizen nor do I intend travelling there. Am I still at risk of SSSS?

Posted by
5011 posts

Yes.

SSSS is not just for Merkins. Nobody knows exactly what triggers it - that's a secret (intentionally). If you get SSSSed, just grin and bare it.

Note that as discussed in many, many places around the internets (please don't link to bloggers...ugh), flying on a one-way ticket to Istanbul appears to be a good way to get on their SSSS list for some time. I'll tell you next year how it goes after I do that.

Posted by
4556 posts

I noticed that I used to routinely get the SSSS whenever I changed a ticket or booked a trip on short notice.

Posted by
12400 posts

@ Shelley ...on the unpleasantness of SSSS there is a German proverb very fitting to this whimsical experience, which I have yet to encounter, "Einmal ist keinmal."

Posted by
10048 posts

Just because your boarding pass says "TSA Precheck" and you are at an airport outside the U.S. doesn't mean you will get it--especially since it doesn't exist. My boarding pass when flying a U.S. airline out of London to the U.S. always says TSA Precheck but that is more from the computer than anything else. (Personally I think it automatically gets printed unless there is a reason not to.)

When flying BA in either business or first class, even if they aren't part of Precheck, will allow you to use the faster security line for upper class passengers if it exists. The security is usually somewhere between regular and Precheck.

I have Precheck. During a recent trip, the buzzer went off about 10 seconds after I had exited the metal detector and was given the all clear to move forward. It seems the computer chose me for a "random electronics" check. So I had to wait while every piece of electronics got swabbed down. (How often does this "random" check actually catch someone?)

Much of the security is ridiculous. A lot has to do with who is working and how busy they are. Recenlty, in Milan, I was going through security right behind a "hen" party. The bride to be was blindfolded so she had no idea where she was going. The security people were having so much fun with them, I watched as my bag went through the xray machine with hardly a glance from the operator. No one gave me a second look.

Posted by
293 posts

I am curious about my December "Global Entry" meeting. They'll have all my flights on a spreadsheet, or something like that, won't they? At that time, I'll impress them with my "bland-ness".

Nope, no trips to anyplace middle east, but I did have "lots of changes" to my personal profile, because the ticketing agent did spell my name "Shelly" and gave my middle name twice. So I had to call everyone to get that changed, which it did, but it still exists this way on my Lufthansa profile - - - hmmm.

Those were good suggestions to get all the NAMES and PASSPORTS and PROFILES to match up, and then from now on, make sure to only get tickets in that name. In this case, a travel agent helped me change my name which she got wrong in the first place. I'm good about "being in Europe" - just not good about "getting there."

Posted by
10048 posts

If you're reference to your December Global Entry meeting is actually your interview, I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill. If you were able to schedule an in-person interview then you have passed the major obstacles. No, they will not have your previous flights in front of them. No, you won't have to put on an act. In fact, just be yourself. It''s not an interrogation where you have to prove your loyalty to the USA. They are trained to watch for people not being honest. All they will do is ask you a couple of questions from your application to make sure you are not lying, take your fingerprints and photo and talk a bit about the program. They only get 15 minutes per person maximum before they have the next group of people.

Posted by
3175 posts

I am curious about my December "Global Entry" meeting. They'll have
all my flights on a spreadsheet, or something like that, won't they?
At that time, I'll impress them with my "bland-ness".

You are really making a mountain out of mole hill both above and in the OP. Why the snarkiness? A spreadsheet? You will have a short interview with someone who interviews GE applicants for a living day in and day out. Relax. Answer the questions. Don't be a smart aleck.

Posted by
3492 posts

Shelley, The fact that you were scheduled for an in-person interview means you have already been checked out to a pretty good extent. Unless there are deep, dark secrets in your past, then you'll be fine just being yourself. Spouse and I were in and out in less than ten minutes.

Posted by
12400 posts

@ Shelley....I am in London now, left from Oakland, did not get that "vier mal S" designation, I was disappointed, they must see me not only as an old geezer but also as a non entity. I especially looked at the boarding pass (richtig angeguckt) but no SSSS. There is another German saying fitting here: "So ist es eben im Leben."

Posted by
100 posts

Re: seats on the plane appearing unfilled 24 hrs before departure- many deeply discounted tickets don't allow the passenger to choose a seat until check-in, so one can't rely on the map of selected seats to gauge how full a plane will be.

Also (and I think this has been mentioned elsewhere in these forums), if you don't want to wait until December for your Global Entry interview, check the website for cancellations. I was originally supposed to wait 2.5 months for mine, but diligent checking of the site landed me an interview 1.5 weeks after my application was cleared. And now with PreCheck, I've had my hands swabbed more often than I did before I had it, oh well!

Posted by
8426 posts

The thing that took the longest during my Global Entry interview was the agent’s computer which was giving him fits that day. We had an interesting discussion on fingerprints and getting the electronic reader to scan them particularly with seniors. He suggested I try to stay hydrated on my flight so they would scan better.

My impression of the extremely nice folks in the Boise office was that they in no way expected the numbers of people who would want GE and the agency was not prepared with personnel to handle the extra work.

I also agree that all the background work is already done when you get your go ahead to make the appointment. They just need to verify you are a real person.

Posted by
12400 posts

@ Shelley...Still I did not get that SSSS on my boarding pass flying back from Gatwick to OAK today, escaped the "vier mal S" again.

Just not my luck to get that designation, which brings to mind another fitting German saying: "Was nicht ist, kann noch werden."

Posted by
16869 posts

Here was my recent security tally traveling to and from Europe with my mom (a senior). I have Global Entry and she does not.

  • Departing Seattle via JFK, we both got TSA Pre-Check. No security check at JFK, since the connecting gates were next to each other.

  • Returning home, I did get the SSSS on my boarding pass for the second, trans-Atlantic leg of the trip, connecting in Frankfurt (and Mom did not). The ticket agent pointed it out in advance and stated that it was random. In this instance, the screening procedure was minimal. They took me behind a screen but only asked me to show my electronics and wanded me briefly. Apparently that satisfied them.

Posted by
12400 posts

@ Shelley...Did you take that guided tour of the Wiener Staatsoper ? (in German, of course) That would have been your chance at hearing that distinct Viennese accent.

Posted by
2650 posts

I realize I'm resurrecting an old topic, but I ran across this article related to SSSS on boarding passes on the Elliott consumer advocate website. It made me think of Shelley's post. The article offers a good description of what it stands for and why it exists. It looks like in the recent past, people have encountered it primarily when returning to the US on international trips.

Posted by
1967 posts

Dave,
I read the article you included in your post of 3/24. This happened to me last September for a flight from London Heathrow back to Atlanta. I’m flying to Paris in mid-April so I’m hoping and praying that I don’t get the dreaded SSSS again on my boarding pass. I fly internationally maybe twice a year and domestically maybe twice also. The article said that if you are selected for enhanced screening once, it could happen again because it may mean you are on a watch list! The program is run by TSA and Homeland Security.

Posted by
2650 posts

Judy,

I hope you don't get selected again! If you do, perhaps its worth signing up for TSA Precheck or Global Entry (if you haven't already done so) so that you will have a "Known Traveler Number."

Posted by
1886 posts

Dave (and Judy),
No, being Global Entry or TSA pre-check does not keep one from receiving the SSSS designation on his/her boarding pass. It's more random.

Spouse and I are both Global Entry, and he received the SSSS on a boarding pass a few years ago connecting thru Canada on the way home to the US. We were told it is totally random. And, it is good it is random, so anyone who turns weirdo after receiving TSA pre-check or Global Entry status, has as good of a chance of going thru a random deep check as anyone else.

Posted by
258 posts

My wife was stopped and given the extensive search treatment at Heathrow headed back to L.A. on British Airways. She's a 60-something retired elementary school teacher with Pre-check. We think it's because they needed a diverse group passengers to justify searching a muslim woman who was their actual focus. Of course, that's just a guess.

Posted by
2916 posts

Random checks can be done courteously. I underwent one a few years ago changing planes in Dublin. The guy doing the search seemed almost apologetic, and was very courteous. The search did disarrange the neat bag my wife had packed, but everything got put back and fit.

Posted by
1449 posts

Which is why it's always prudent to arrive at the airport and go through security with more than enough time to spare.
The article mentioned above says that the airline won't care if you miss your flight due to being pulled aside for extra attention.

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi,

I flew out from OAK to Gatwick at the end of April....no SSSS for me..., again. No "vier mal S" Some old geezer like me doesn't get the attention.

Given the choice of departing from OAK or SFO, on the issue of security and TSA alone, I prefer OAK..a whole lot of reasons.

Posted by
12551 posts

Both myself and my traveling companion got the SSSS last trip. Neither of us received any special treatment and my traveling companion had a middle eastern passport.

Posted by
7717 posts

My old geezer spouse got ssss, as did young, old, a lady in a wheelchair—no rhyme or reason—so you could still win the ssss-lottery yet.

Edit: Unlike others, it was a long wait. Plane took off late.

Posted by
2262 posts

On our return from Amsterdam through Frankfurt last month on Lufthansa my geezer wife (63) found SSSS on her boarding pass for the Frankfurt-Philly leg, while geezer me (64) did not. The pull-out at the passport check to enter the Z area took under 5 minutes, and she reported it was completely inconsequential.

Posted by
524 posts

I had meant to add to this post, and suddenly, it appeared as the first topic today! On our recent flight from LHR, my husband's boarding pass was not available to print. Hmmmm, I thought. After checking in at the airport, I never once looked at his boarding pass, and he never mentioned anything out of the ordinary about his. Upon reaching the gate, our boarding cards were inspected and he was told he had been selected for additional screening and to come with this person. I was told I could come along, so I did. Down we went to just before the jetway and there was a group of fellow passengers that had been selected, also. Everyone was confused, but because of this thread, I knew what was taking place and told my husband what to expect. Oh, and he is an old geezer, will be 70 his next birthday.

It went very quickly, except: 1. The area for the screening was located down the escalator and at the entrance to the jetway. As other passengers were coming off the excalator most stopped, seemingly unsure whether to proceed or wait.
2. The agents were so soft spoken, it made it was difficult to hear them call passengers by name, once the person who's name was called understood the actual screening was soon over.

Posted by
12400 posts

yes, that's right. I can still win the SSSS lottery yet but I shalln't hold my breath; I am betting against it.

James. I am a geezer but you are older than I. True, it is also a state of mind too.

Posted by
506 posts

Returned to the Houston from Amsterdam last month on United. Got the SSSS, didn't appear to be a big deal even got to board early. Global Entry worked like a charm. Got me.

Posted by
3175 posts

On our recent flight from LHR, my husband's boarding pass was not
available to print.

There is the option of having the boarding pass on his phone using the airline app.

Posted by
524 posts

It was BA. I could get my boarding pass, but he could not get his. Also, I found the Apple app to be far better than the android app. For some reason, even I could not retrieve my boarding pass on the android app. This was a multi-leg journey which included a partner airline. I just put it down to his extra security measure. Since we had checked in, I wasn't really bothered with the boarding card issue. I knew it would be just a matter of getting it printed out at the airport.

Posted by
1967 posts

I've been selected twice for SSSS screening. Both times, I was not able to download my boarding pass on my iPhone from the Delta app even though I got an email from Delta telling me I could get my boarding pass. When I tried to do that, the message was that I needed to get my boarding pass at the airport. Both times, it was on the flight back to the states. Both times, I flew open jaw and the middle leg was via train or a flight on another airline.
Last Sept., from London Heathrow to Atlanta.
Last month in April, from Amsterdam to Atlanta. After screening, we all were allowed to board first the plane before everyone else! That was a silver lining!

Posted by
12400 posts

The Mrs prefers getting all the needed papers, ie, boarding pass, etc on-line. I don't do that when traveling solo to Europe and get the boarding pass only at check-in. This may have nothing to do with getting the SSSS but who knows. Whatever I have done in getting the boarding pass, still no SSSS

Posted by
3175 posts

I haven't flown BA much so I don't remember. Does BA have kiosks when you arrive at the terminal so you can print out the boarding pass before you go through security? I know Virgin Atlantic does. What an ordeal, Debra. You have a good attitude!

Posted by
2262 posts

If you have been selected for SSSS, then it will appear on your boarding pass no matter where you obtain it - online, kiosk, or counter.

Posted by
12376 posts

In what way was Debra's experi nice an ordeal? Not being able to print her husband's boarding pass, or the secondary inspection?

We always fly BA routinely just get our boarding passes at Heathrow when returning home ( I do check in online, but rarely have access to a printer). It is not anything I would describe as an ordeal.

As for the secondary inspection, in 2007, long before I every heard of SSSS, I was pulled out for this process when my boarding pass was scanned at the gate. This was the business class boarding line and two other passengers, both British gentlmen close to my age (60's) were also selected. We were asked to follow the BA agent downstairs, and she answered the protests by the two men by jerking her head toward me and saying, "Blame her. It is her government's requirement that we re-inspect a certain number of passengers ( chosen at random) on all flights to the US." One of them glared at me and the other sort of shrugged.

Once downstairs our passports were taken and our cabin baggage was reinspected by hand. Then our passports were returned and we were escorted back upstairs to board the plane, much to the relief of my family members who were waiting for me.

It produced a bit of anxiety ( mostly for my husband and two daughters) but was hardly an ordeal. I knew the plane would not take off without us.

I suggest to anyone who gets pulled for SSSS that they cooperate cheerfully and keep talk to a minimum.

Posted by
5 posts

I travel through Munich airport on my way to England. It was a lovely airport. Had no problems there and got my connecting flight easily. This year we will be travelling back via Munich and have 7 hours to spend at the airport. I was quite worried about such a long time, but my friends have said there is plenty to do there and it's a lovely airport to spend time in.

Posted by
3175 posts

In what way was Debra's experi nice an ordeal? Not being able to print
her husband's boarding pass, or the secondary inspection?

The confusion she describes. Being selected for a 2nd screening should be a simple, clear process which I've had on Delta at AMS & DUS most often just before the jetway; that wasn't what she described which includes not having access to one's boarding pass from a major airline like BA. The kiosks were all out of order too?

Posted by
3469 posts

If you have been SSSSelected, you will not be able to get your boarding pass on the app, from a kiosk, or any other option you normally use except at the check in counter in the airport. Even if you could, it would still have the SSSS on it and you would still be sent to the extra screening whatever that might be.

I did not have the SSSS on my boarding pass coming back from Italy a couple years ago. But the checkin person for United at FCO wanted to know why I had no luggage. I had my RS original convertible carry on which is all I ever take with me to Europe. She was convinced that there was no way I could have been in Italy for almost 4 weeks with that little of luggage. She took my already printed boarding pass and gave me another one -- now with the SSSS on it! I won't continue the story except to say the remainder of my time in the airport in Italy was not as pleasant as I had hoped for.

Posted by
12551 posts

You know, there is one bad agent or TSA or ??? For every 20 good ones. You just gotta smile, be polite, rise above, and roll with the punches or they end up being in charge of you happiness. Then they've beat you for sure. At least they didn't wave a selfie stick in your face.

Posted by
12400 posts

@ James....I cannot understand why both of you, as indicated above, got the unpleasant SSSS since your passport was that of the US, ie two of you checking in together, both of you getting the SSSS? I am not sure if the Mrs ever got the SSSS, (I don't think so since I don't recall her saying it was unpleasant, so I assume it never happened to her). I never did, didn't even know it existed until posted here by the OP, until then had never heard of it.

BTW, greetings from Vienna, have a few more days left here, then at the very end back to Paris and London in June in order to get "back in the USA" a la Chuck Berry, ie, OAK.

Posted by
6076 posts

I've had it twice on domestic flights. I don't dread the extra-special attention, but I do hate it delaying my boarding so that the bin hogs have filled up the overhead space by the time I get on.

Posted by
3469 posts

Fred, ANYONE traveling on any flight to or from the US or on any domestic US flight can get the SSSS at any time. Age, gender, destination, citizenship none of this is supposed to impact being selected or not. I used to get it a lot. I get it less now that I have TSA PRE. Is there a connection? Not if the selection is truly random. The only other thing that changed for me is I used to buy a lot of last minute tickets. I got the S on those more than any others.

Posted by
12400 posts

Thanks for the information.

@ Shelley....Returned a few days ago from London Gatwick to OAK, still no SSSS, escaped this designation once more. Going through Gatwick security was a breeze relative to what I have experienced sometimes in the past. I was not even told to take off my shoes.

Posted by
12551 posts

Fred, I sort of expected my guest to get the SSSS because her passport was issued by a "state supporter of terrorism". But I was surprised that I got it. Despite that, neither of us got any special attention. We breezed right through when we departed Budapest and when we changed planes in Istanbul. But I have been checked before and it's no biggie. I wish it weren't random. A waste of resources. They should be profiling behavior and passport origin like they do in Tel Aviv where I got the full treatment, interview, background check, search, etc ---- still no biggie. I'm sure they had their reasons.

Posted by
3469 posts

Fred, it seems you are expecting or even wanting to get the S. Why are you so concerned?

Posted by
506 posts

You can expect to get the SSSS on any International Flight bound for the USA per DHS directives. They are going to swab your electronics, probably the inside of your carry-on bag for explosive residue etc. As I said above it happened to me in AMS last April and last Sunday coming home from LHR my wife got it on her boarding pass. Both times were handled similarly; no big deal. The only thing we can think is that we travel quite a bit internationally, including places outside of Europe, with carry-on luggage only, but it could just as easily be the luck of the draw. FYI, our TSA Pre-check and Global Entry worked flawlessly on each trip.