Despite your best efforts, some travel delays cannot be avoided even by planning ahead. And whether it’s a traffic jam on the way to the airport or an excruciatingly long line at baggage check and security, these unexpected speed bumps can sometimes put you in real danger of missing your flight. But even if you think the navigation to your gate is smooth once you arrive at your terminal, you may still be held up before boarding. Read on to see how your plane ticket can tell you if you’re going to be delayed for your flight.
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When you receive your boarding pass, the first piece of information you might look for might be the seat assignment you received, the gate you need to go to, or the time your flight starts boarding. But according to experts, if you notice the letters “SSSS” stamped on your plane ticket, you can expect to be held for a lengthy additional security search before you can board.
The code, which stands for “Secondary Security Screening Selection”, is an enhanced pre-boarding passenger screening used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as an additional level of security. “When you book a plane ticket in today’s digitized world, your airline submits your name, gender, and date of birth to the TSA for clearance,” Frank Harrisonregional director of security for North America and the United Kingdom at travel risk management firm World Travel Protection, said Conde Nast Traveler. “Airlines are motivated to make sure you’re TSA-approved before you fly. [because] there are fines for allowing unauthorized passengers to board a plane.”
Seeing “SSSS” on your ticket can be cause for concern if you’re in a hurry: experts warn that any passenger whose boarding pass is marked with the symbol can expect to have 15 to 45 added to the clearance for security and the boarding process. And while the process may be different in each case, most searches include additional scans of personal effects, manual searches of all personal baggage, baggage swipes for explosives or narcotics, probing questions about travel plans and additional identity checks by agents, Simple travel blog Flight Reports.
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Experts warn that it’s more or less impossible to know if you’ll be selected for an additional security check when you book your tickets, but there are a few clues. Not being able to download or view a digital boarding pass before your flight or being instructed by the airline to print a physical ticket at a kiosk in the terminal could indicate that the TSA flagged your reservation, reports travel blog One Mile At a Time.
But how does the TSA choose who gets flagged? According to experts, certain booking behaviors such as buying one-way tickets, last-minute bookings or traveling to “high-risk” countries can attract the agency’s attention. It’s also possible that your name closely resembles that of a Federal Aviation Watch List or that the agency has added you for some reason. In other cases, you may simply have been randomly selected for the advanced search process.
“Many travelers unknowingly flag themselves due to inconsistent but innocuous travel behaviors, such as booking a last-minute ticket or paying cash,” Harrison says. “If you exhibit behavior that doesn’t fit your profile, say, for example, suddenly adopting a jet-setting pattern, that’s a red flag and a potential red flag for drug or human trafficking. Consistency is queen.”
While being forced to go through an enhanced security process can lengthen your time at the airport, it’s arguably not the worst boarding pass red flag you might see. According to an Air Canada ticket agent, seeing the letters “GTE” printed on your plane ticket means your flight is oversold and you may not catch your flight at all, CBC reports.
“If someone has ‘GTE’ [for ‘gate’] on their boarding pass, it means they don’t have a seat,” the anonymous employee explained.
While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent your airline from selling more tickets than there are seats on a flight, there is a way to avoid being bumped. Experts recommend using your airline’s app or website to always check in for your flight as early as possible, usually 24-48 hours before departure, and try to choose a seat if possible to improve your chances. . “People with unassigned seats tend to be the first to get off planes when flights are overbooked,” terry suerotravel specialist and senior board member of travel planning agency Safe Travel Pathways, says Reader’s Digest.
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