Here’s What You Should Know If You Get Flagged By TSA

By Parker Diakite


If you ever find yourself in a situation at the security checkpoint where you’re pulled aside by a TSA Agent for extra screening, don’t panic. 

This could simply mean that you have been flagged in advance for what the TSA calls “Secondary Security Screening Selection,” also known as SSSS on your boarding ticket.

If this happens to you, experts from Fodor’s Travel have outlined what passengers should do in case you’re flagged:

Why were you flagged?

When you purchase a plane ticket, the airlines ask you to submit your name, gender, date of birth. It’s a way for TSA to cross-check the information they have with several databases, including the No Fly List, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Do Not Board” list and the TSA’s own Selectee List

The TSA’s Selectee List changes constantly for the following reasons:

  • Booking a one-way ticket
  • Paying for a ticket with cash
  • Making flight reservations on short notice
  • Recent travel to certain countries
  • Holding a passport from a country that the U.S. does not have a good relationship with.

There are signs that will indicate you have been flagged for additional screenings:

  • You were not able to print a boarding pass from an airline ticketing kiosk or from the internet.
  • You were denied or delayed boarding.
  • A ticket agent “called someone” before handing you a boarding pass.

What to do?

Having an SSSS on your boarding pass once or twice is not a big deal, according to Fodor’s. Travelers should expect to go through a body scanner and a metal detector, receive an enhanced pat-down, have your hands and belongings swabbed, and get your bags manually searched.

If you find that you’re constantly being sent to secondary screening, here are a few steps you can take.

Use your full name when booking a plane ticket

This includes your middle name to reduce the chances that you’ll get flagged because someone with a similar name is on some kind of watch list.

Sign up for a Trusted Traveler Program

Programs like Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck involve an extensive background check, so they may help you avoid getting flagged at security.

Request a “Redress Number” from the Department of Homeland Security

DHS has a centralized complaint center called the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) here you can submit your information if you’re repeatedly getting flagged for additional scrutiny at TSA checkpoints, passport control, or customs.

Once you file a complaint and provide copies of your identity documents, DHS will do some investigating to see if you’re being flagged because your name is similar to someone on a watch list. If they determine that’s the case, they’ll issue you a “redress number” that you can include when making flight reservations. C

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