SSSS Boarding pass
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

My First SSSS in Years — in Amsterdam. What Does That Mean?

I guess I have been very fortunate to not have had the dreaded SSSS printed on my boarding pass in years of traveling — but it is on my boarding pass for travel back to the United States; and yet I am already in the secure area of Schiphol Airport, as I transferred from another flight.

My First SSSS in Years — in Amsterdam. What Does That Mean?

Does this mean that I should expect to enjoy an enhanced secure experience of being inappropriately groped rather intimately during a strip search while having to disassemble my electronics to ensure that a bomb was not built into them? If so, will this happen before or after I board the airplane for my flight to the United States?

In case you did not know, SSSS are the initials for Secondary Security Screening Selection, which will appear on your boarding pass when you have been selected by the Secure Flight system of the Transportation Security Administration for “enhanced security screening” at the security checkpoint of an airport…

…but I have already checked in for my flight; and other than possibly upon arrival in Atlanta, I have no security checkpoints to pass through. Other than visiting Morocco, I have done nothing unusual than when I have traveled at other times.


I am not sure why I was selected for SSSS; but those are four letters you never want to see on your boarding pass…

…and why must passengers who purchased bottles of liquids in the secure area of the airport from which they departed relinquish said bottles just to transfer from one flight to another at Schiphol Airport — let alone get screened?

Anyway, whatever is the current answer to what SSSS provides for me, I am not looking forward to it…

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

  1. A friend of mine got this recently on a return from Asia. For her, it meant being pulled aside for enhanced screening at customs when she landed back at LAX. She said the whole process took 45 minutes but didn’t go into detail. Good luck!

  2. I received SSSS at AMS in August. It was an American Airlines flight, coming back to the states. Our trip had been entirely within Europe. The screening occurred at the boarding gate, immediately before boarding the plane. I didn’t have any carry on baggage, so the screen was very fast. Probably less than 3 minutes. I was the only member of my family selected, so it appeared to be random. I’ve heard stories from travelers of different ethnicities where the entire family was “randomly” selected…

    But over all it wasn’t really a big deal. Though I’m surprised they give so much advanced notice of the screening. I would think the element of surprise would be critical to the success of random screening, if you really intend to catch anyone who is planning to cause harm. Otherwise wouldn’t the would-be terrorist just say, “I guess I’ll come on another day” and leave the airport?

  3. I had the SSSS upon departure from AMS in July. Everything out of my backpack, everything I carried on fully hand searched. This was done at the gate upon boarding not prior.

  4. I have only encountered the SSSS once in my travel career. Returning from CDG to DFW – June 2018. The event took about 30 minutes on the jetway about 45 minutes prior to departure. Careful review of everything in my carry-on stuff and my shoes. They even required me to remove the insoles of my shoes for review. They paid a lot of attention to my shoes. Additionally, they took about a dozen or more swabs of carry-on contents for explosives residues.

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