Passenger explains what happened after he got dreaded SSSS on boarding pass

There seem to be a lot of hidden codes in daily life that might give you some good or bad news.

If you overhear an intercom calling for Inspector Sands at a train station, that means that a fire alarm could have gone off, but it’s not definite enough to do a proper evacuation yet so staff need to check.

Hearing ‘Code 3’ on the London underground network could mean there’s a vomit situation to clear up.

And for those travelling via aeroplane, there are several different things to look out for our your boarding pass, including a sneaky letter that could indicate how likely you are to get an upgrade.

The one nobody really wants to see, however, is ‘SSSS’.

These four letters spell out that you have been selected for Secondary Security Screening Selection – meaning extra checks that could end up taking you longer than the other people boarding.

The code got a lot of attention last year, and now a man has described what happened when he noticed he had the code on his boarding pass.

Stewart Jackson, from London, spotted the letters before he flew from London to New York to visit his girlfriend.

He told The Sun: ‘I tried to check-in online the night before, but the website kept throwing up an error message.’

He thought this would be okay as he would just check in at the airport.

When travellers were asked if they fulfilled all the coronavirus requirements, Stewart mentioned to a staff member that he had not managed to check in online.

‘After she’d punched in my passport number she said “Oh!” and my heart started pounding when she did that,’ he said.

The woman ‘saw the panic in his eyes’ and then told him he needed extra screening before boarding the flight, telling him this was ‘purely random’.

But he said it didn’t end up delaying him, as it happened at the boarding gate before people started to get on the plane.

‘When they saw my boarding card, I was directed to an area behind a screen where someone else was also being searched,’ he said.

Staff looked in his luggage, swabbed his hands and pockets and checked inside his shoes, and he then got on the flight as planned.

It didn’t disrupt his journey – but it’s worth bearing in mind in terms of giving plenty of time when travelling, in case you’re running late and still need the checks.

People who are marked as SSSS may be quizzed more thoroughly about their travel plans and be asked for additional identity checks.

The code is usually assigned randomly, but some people could find themselves getting picked multiple times if something is flagged as suspicious in their information.

And you’re more likely to get it on flights to the US.

Travellers became more aware of this code in November last year, when a travel influence in TikTok posted about what it means.

Basically, it means the ticket holder has been selected for additional screening – so security is more likely to give you a pat-down search, or your bags may be more thoroughly searched than others who do not have the code on their boarding pass.

A more positive code you might spot on a boarding pass is a letter indicating you could get an upgrade.

If you see a floating letter next to your seat number, flight number, or even just adjacent to the date and time of your flight, it could signify your airline status, and how likely you are to be given an upgrade based on how frequently you fly or what ticket option you have selected.

An ‘A’ or ‘F’ tends to mean first-class treatment, while a ‘B’ means you’re more likely to get upgraded than if you have a ‘Q’ or a ‘Y’ on your ticket, which are typically used on cheaper ticket options.

‘Y’ stands for economy class, while ‘Q’ is an economy ticket purchased at a discounted rate.

For more information on the possible codes, have a look at our explainer here.

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