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'SSSS' on boarding pass - The "Policy Debate" version

'SSSS' on boarding pass - The "Policy Debate" version

Old Sep 24, 11, 10:23 pm
  #1  
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'SSSS' on boarding pass - The "Policy Debate" version

Thought I'd start a thread on some pointless SSSS stories....

I just came into ATL from SJO and went through the usual security screening in ATL on landing. My next flight is KE34 and when I checked in for that flight at the gate, the agent printed out a b/p with SSSS! The strange part - he walked me down to the TSA where they made me go through screening - just a simple walk through AIT. Interestingly all my stuff was already in the lounge upstairs so really I only had my passport and cell phone on my when I walked through screening.

Apparently my carry-on bags are not important to be screened. Go figure!
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Old Sep 25, 11, 12:16 am
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This is one of the best showcases of security theater. The TSA staff were tacitly acknowledging the profound uselessness of SSSS by ignoring your luggage.

The Delta agents (handling for Korean) don't want to get caught ignoring a computer malfunction. The TSA staff therefore go through a pretend ceremony of scrutinizing the passenger.

This story also reaffirms my belief that they should "get it right at the checkpoint" as Kip Hawley once said. The idea of re-screening a passenger who has cleared a TSA checkpoint is absurd. This includes the unthinkable waste and humiliation of gate screening, and the idea that a person is considered normal risk with one boarding card and extraordinary risk with another.

The simplest way to fix this is to ask Delta to change its software. Although they might claim otherwise, Delta controls who gets the SSSS. Their system should not assign SSSS status after the first segment of an itinerary has been flown. Furthermore, if it does show up and the passenger has already flown at least one segment on the same day, the agent should be let "off the hook" and be allowed to remove the SSSS flag.

When SSSS was used more frequently, I had it several times in the middle of trips... as if I could somehow procure dangerous articles mid-flight and use them to hijack the second or third segments that day.
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Old Sep 25, 11, 10:09 am
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I used to love the "old school" SSSS, which was handed to you on your boarding pass at check in. You were then free to go on your own to the checkpoint (and pass on whatever suspicious you had to your non-SSSS friend).
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Old Sep 25, 11, 11:16 am
  #4  
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Not really anything to do with practical concerns...

SO I will move the thread to the debate/discussion forum. Thanks.

squeakr

co Mod TS/S Practical Issues
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Old Sep 25, 11, 6:45 pm
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My favorite SSSS experience happened some years back. I was flying from Tampa to Seattle, with a change of planes in Dallas. Weather in Dallas was very bad, so the AA gate agent told me that I was going to miss the last flight out of Dallas to Seattle. I fired up my computer, found an alternate flight via USAir that would avoid the night's stay, and got her to send me to the USAir check-in desk with a voucher.

That's where things got a bit dicey. The gate agent seemed a bit harried--I think bad weather across the Midwest had made for a frustrating day for a lot of passengers. She quickly took my voucher and issued me a boarding pass--middle seat in the back of the plane. I asked if my USAir frequent flyer number was in the system and she snapped "Just send in your boarding pass stub after the flight." Well, as a USAir Gold (at the time) I thought that perhaps I could get a little better seat assignment as well as avoid the hassle of sending my stub in for the mileage, so I asked her to please re-issue the boarding pass with my number and to check if there was a better seat.

You will have to take my word for it that it wasn't with a DYKWIA kind of attitude--I'm by nature pretty diffident, actually. But, probably since she'd had a bad day, she made a big show of rolling her eyes, sighing really loudly, ripping up my old boarding pass into pieces, and handing me a new boarding pass (which was, as it turned out, in the front of the plane, aisle seat!) It also had on it SSSS.

Took it to the checkpoint, where I was whisked off to a private room for a SSSS special patdown. (This was long before the current prison-style patdowns.) I told the screener why I had been given the special designation, and got the world's most perfunctory patdown and an apology from her. She strongly recommended that I complain to US Air about a gate agent using the SSSS designation for petty retaliation.

So, I did. To my surprise, I got an actual letter back from Customer Service, apologizing for the rudeness and inappropriate behavior of the gate agent, who they said they were able to identify from my description. Got a $200 voucher and 10,000 extra miles as well.
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Old Sep 26, 11, 12:49 am
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Originally Posted by flitcraft View Post
My favorite SSSS experience happened some years back. I was flying from Tampa to Seattle, with a change of planes in Dallas....<snip>
Had a similar experience a few years ago but different treatment. Was flying NW to a make an evening dinner in Dallas JAN-MEM-DFW outbound one morning, back the next (yes I know the hard way, but I was trolling for a final few WorldPerks miles to make a status level). No problem JAN-MEM, then the next segment went MX. Auto-rebooked me to a NW flight leaving a few hours later MEM-DTW (!) -DFW which was unacceptable as I'd miss my Dallas event and invoked Trip in Vain. They put me on AA flight leaving less than an hour later. At AA gate/service desk, agents spit out a new boarding pass with....SSSS on it. I complained and they just said "aw, ignore it and just board, it's ridiculous that this sort of situation produces one of these things." ^
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Old Oct 1, 11, 3:11 pm
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I sort of miss my old SSSS days. Espically at MDW. They had a seperate line which was usually quite empty. I went through faster than the rest.
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Old Oct 2, 11, 5:10 pm
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The TSA supe that SSSS'd me because I wouldn't speak my name loudly. He didn't even bother to speak to me.
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Old Oct 3, 11, 8:40 am
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I am surprised that no one has said ALL SSSS are pointless. I am kinda disappointed.
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Old Oct 3, 11, 11:39 am
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Originally Posted by unLogical View Post
I am surprised that no one has said ALL SSSS are pointless. I am kinda disappointed.
You beat me to it! I just logged in and saw this thread!

But that piece of logical clarity aside, here's my entry--

PHL, US Airways commuter gates, about 4 years ago. Was waiting for boarding for my flight home (a couple hundred miles away). Gate agent announced that flight was weight-restricted, so they were looking for volunteers. I inquired and found that there was another flight, leaving about 30 minutes later, to a nearby airport that was actually a bit closer to my home than my original destination. Volunteered, and was issued a boarding pass for the new flight, which was leaving from the SAME GATE. This new bp, however, came out with SSSS!

Therefore, the gate agent now tells me that they will call TSA to come do a gate screening of me. I say fine, but since it'll take a few minutes for the agent to come over, I'm going to go over to the food court to grab a bite to eat. She says okay. I go, buy some food, and bring it back to the gate area. TSA agent had just arrived, and was now chastising the gate agent for letting me leave the gate area. The agent then gives me a hand-wanding, does a quick search of my bag, scribbles "OK" on my bp with a regular black pen, and leaves.

Not enough to describe the total silliness of it all.
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Old Oct 3, 11, 12:09 pm
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Originally Posted by Maxwell Smart View Post
The agent then gives me a hand-wanding, does a quick search of my bag, scribbles "OK" on my bp with a regular black pen, and leaves.

Not enough to describe the total silliness of it all.
I wonder what would have happened had you just found a magic black pen and scribbled "OK" on it before you went through the silliness? I'd have been tempted to do that and just tell them that someone else had been called over to do your screening.
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Old Oct 3, 11, 12:17 pm
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Had a cruise that ended prematurely and ended up having to fly back MCO to JFK since my car was still back in NY. (Actually, I can't remember now if it was JFK or LGA, but irrelevant). I think I must have pinged on every single criteria they must have to select you for SSSS: purchased same day, first class, one way travel, to NY of all places. Of course, their system doesn't have any way to recognize that all of a sudden there were about 2k people doing exactly the same thing. Made for an overcrowded SSSS line there, and the TSA folks were not handling it well at all (I ended up with one of them swearing at me).

Another cruise, got delayed over night because of storms, and somehow ended up getting SSSS on the new ticket. The TSA guy there was fairly apologetic about the whole thing, but did insist on going through the entire bag of electronics. Everything was done right in front of me and there was no real risk of anything disappearing in the process. I do think he was a little surprised that the bag seemed to have a never-ending supply of electronics to pull out.
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Old Oct 3, 11, 12:27 pm
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Originally Posted by clrankin View Post
I wonder what would have happened had you just found a magic black pen and scribbled "OK" on it before you went through the silliness? I'd have been tempted to do that and just tell them that someone else had been called over to do your screening.
My point exactly. Had I known how this was going to play out, I would have been tempted to do just that, especially considering that the only person who even looked at the BP afterward was a gate agent during boarding (who was different than the one that issued me the SSSS BP, and therefore had no idea who I was or what had transpired).

Just one of the many moments of the entire episode, from the concept of the SSSS inside the secure area in the first place, the gate agent not overriding it (and yes she could have), me leaving the area AFTER being told I would be subject to a gate screening, TSA agent actually DOING a screening on the spot after I had returned from places unknown (to them), to a scribble that I could have done myself, and all the other items in between.
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Old Oct 3, 11, 2:51 pm
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Then there was the time at STL where DL canceled a flight and the gate agent rebooked me on AA, which required re-clearing security. Sure enough, it came out SSSS and I barely made the flight. Was glad to be on the flight, even though it was last row, center seat.
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Old Oct 4, 11, 5:35 pm
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Originally Posted by BubbaLoop View Post
I used to love the "old school" SSSS, which was handed to you on your boarding pass at check in. You were then free to go on your own to the checkpoint (and pass on whatever suspicious you had to your non-SSSS friend).
I still get those same SSSS - everytime I fly back from SJO (another mystery as to why only SJO and nowhere else...) But the SSSS is printed on my BP and then handed over to me.

Next time, I'll hand over my super secret coffee beans to someone else
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