Travel to/thru Turkey and SSSS

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Old Dec 18, 17, 11:09 am
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I have GE & have gotten precheck 100% since getting it a few years ago. Until October when I transited through Istanbul on my way home to the US from Greece. I got SSSS at Istanbul and had to go through extensive security checks at the gate. But it seemed they were doing it to everyone, so I wasn't too worried about it. (The pat down was actually less invasive than the TSA.)

Tomorrow is my first trip since, traveling domestic with my husband (he wasn't on the Greece trip) and I was able to check him in online, but not me. So now I know I'm not going to be getting precheck tomorrow & will get the full SSSS treatment. I'm pretty peeved that if I had known I could have just avoided that routing. I actually picked it because I'd heard about the amazing lounge in IST. Gah. Well if it's going to drop off after a few months like others are reporting, I'll try to calm down. I didn't even get to visit Turkey for all this trouble!
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Old Dec 18, 17, 12:24 pm
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Originally Posted by Airline_Brat View Post
I have GE & have gotten precheck 100% since getting it a few years ago. Until October when I transited through Istanbul on my way home to the US from Greece. I got SSSS at Istanbul and had to go through extensive security checks at the gate. But it seemed they were doing it to everyone, so I wasn't too worried about it. (The pat down was actually less invasive than the TSA.)

Tomorrow is my first trip since, traveling domestic with my husband (he wasn't on the Greece trip) and I was able to check him in online, but not me. So now I know I'm not going to be getting precheck tomorrow & will get the full SSSS treatment. I'm pretty peeved that if I had known I could have just avoided that routing. I actually picked it because I'd heard about the amazing lounge in IST. Gah. Well if it's going to drop off after a few months like others are reporting, I'll try to calm down. I didn't even get to visit Turkey for all this trouble!
So apparently this is quite a YMMV situation, and your lack of online checkin may or may not have anything to do with Turkey. Per my experience at the end of October (the post right above yours), the SSSS I had for my flight departing IST to the US had no effect on security screening--I was subject to the same screening as everyone else, nothing special or extra because of the SSSS. And tomorrow I'm embarking on my second domestic trip within the US since then, no issues with either online checkin or pre-check (which, like you, I have through GE). And I DID enter Turkey for a few hours during the layover at IST.

Are you by chance flying Delta? Could your situation be related to flight cancellations/rebookings due to the ATL shutdown yesterday?

Good luck! (and the TK lounge was pretty awesome, right?)
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Old Dec 19, 17, 3:06 am
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Originally Posted by Maxwell Smart View Post
So apparently this is quite a YMMV situation, and your lack of online checkin may or may not have anything to do with Turkey. Per my experience at the end of October (the post right above yours), the SSSS I had for my flight departing IST to the US had no effect on security screening--I was subject to the same screening as everyone else, nothing special or extra because of the SSSS. And tomorrow I'm embarking on my second domestic trip within the US since then, no issues with either online checkin or pre-check (which, like you, I have through GE). And I DID enter Turkey for a few hours during the layover at IST.

Are you by chance flying Delta? Could your situation be related to flight cancellations/rebookings due to the ATL shutdown yesterday?

Good luck! (and the TK lounge was pretty awesome, right?)
No, we're flying Jet Blue tomorrow. AUS to FLL. Don't think it has anything to do with flight issues as my husband was able to check in as was his extra seat, but I was not. All on the same PNR. Yes the TK lounge was amazing, though I found it a little overwhelming TBH.

I'll update after my security experience tomorrow, I'm not looking forward to it. Hopefully it won't be too bad.
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Old Dec 20, 17, 6:41 pm
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Folks,

The Practical Travel Safety and Security Issues informational. Please limit your responses here to factual information, data points and practical advice.

If you wish to debate the reasons for selecting individuals for having SSSS on their boarding passes, please do so in the Checkpoints and Borders Policy Debate forum:
'SSSS' on boarding pass - The "Policy Debate" version
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Old Dec 31, 17, 1:35 pm
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I flew to Turkey on 12/25 on a Delta/KLM award ticket. I flew home today on an Iberia/BA award ticket. My BP at ORY for ORY-JFK was marked with SSSS and I was screened there. However, no issues on arriving at JFK. No X on my GE slip, no questioning from anyone. And My BP for JFK-RDU today printed out with Precheck on it.

My next trip is in two weeks, we'll see what happens then.
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Old Jan 6, 18, 7:34 pm
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Originally Posted by CMK10 View Post
I flew to Turkey on 12/25 on a Delta/KLM award ticket. I flew home today on an Iberia/BA award ticket. My BP at ORY for ORY-JFK was marked with SSSS and I was screened there. However, no issues on arriving at JFK. No X on my GE slip, no questioning from anyone. And My BP for JFK-RDU today printed out with Precheck on it.

My next trip is in two weeks, we'll see what happens then.
Sounds like that is a function of booking a one way return ticket. I am hoping that the SSSS syndrome from visiting Turkey is becoming less likely for travelers these days.
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Old Feb 3, 18, 7:39 am
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What's the consensus these days on connecting through IST -- without leaving the airport -- on a o/w ticket from the US to Europe? Are there any instances of SSSS appearing on later travel that appear to result from merely connecting there on an outbound flight, rather than arriving in the US from IST?

I've avoided TK for the past two years for precisely that reason, but I'm planning an upcoming SFO>TXL trip and the best award itinerary hands down is on TK.
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Old Feb 3, 18, 2:32 pm
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I have had SSSS any time I do a one-way ticket back to the US whether from IST or not. I doubt you will get it on a one-way ticket out of the USA.

The concern now is for people staying in IST a couple of days as a stopover...is that still triggering SSSS?
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Old Feb 5, 18, 2:46 pm
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I booked a DL/KL one way ticket to IST for last December. I stayed two days then flew on TK to ATH and later home to the US from there. My Europe-US flight was SSSSed. Since then I have had zero SSSS and Precheck on every ticket.
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Old Feb 6, 18, 6:39 am
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Originally Posted by SkyTeam777 View Post
I have had SSSS any time I do a one-way ticket back to the US whether from IST or not. I doubt you will get it on a one-way ticket out of the USA.
Originally Posted by CMK10 View Post
I booked a DL/KL one way ticket to IST for last December. I stayed two days then flew on TK to ATH and later home to the US from there. My Europe-US flight was SSSSed. Since then I have had zero SSSS and Precheck on every ticket.
Thanks for the data points. A relief to hear that if there is any effect these days from visiting or transiting IST, it's exponentially shorter than it was a couple years back, when some endured SSSS for weeks afterward.
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Old May 27, 18, 10:15 am
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Hard time connecting in the US on a RTW ticket ex-Turkey

Not sure if that's the right forum but I thought I'd share my recent (as in, yesterday) experience of connecting in the US. This is probably the most complicated connection I've ever had.
I'm flying on a RTW *A business class ticket, visiting bunch of countries in Asia and then in Central/South America - I'm on a 3 months sabbatical leave. I have Irish and Russian passports, and I use them interchangeably in different countries depending on which one works better for a particular country. I currently live in Zurich. As many know, the price of RTW ticket varies greatly depending on the beginning city. So in and around Europe, and to suit my itinerary, Istanbul was by far the cheapest - over $3k savings compared to starting in Zurich. So I took a cheap positioning flight to get there, and started my journey in Istanbul. No issues whatsoever while visiting many countries in Asia, and then my itinerary was NRT - CUN via IAH (NH for the first leg, UA for the second). I merely had 3 hours connection in IAH.
As I was trying to check in online for the NRT-IAH flight, the check in failed, which is usually not a good sign. Upon arriving to check in desk in NRT, the check in guy looked a bit concerned and finally gave me a phone to speak to someone. The person said he works for the US government and since my ESTA was issued quite a while ago and my itinerary is somewhat complicated, he needs to ask me few questions. So we want through itinerary, why I'm going to those places, where I work, what I do, etc. All in all, 15 mins or so polite chat - he warned me though I'll likely have more questions in IAH because of IST starting point of my trip.
2 boarding passes were printed - NRT to IAH with SSSS, and IAH to CUN without SSSS. Of course, SSSS on the first one meant some secondary security before boarding the NH flight - but they were cool about it, paging me before the boarding started so all good.
Naturally after arriving to IAH I first went to the kiosks as the returning ESTA, the kiosk failed to clear me. So i had to go to passport control desk, who called another guy, who escorted me to that room for further screening. There I had to wait another 20-30 mins, answer pretty much the same questions as in Tokyo which took another 15 mins (he also casually asked if I went to Syria), and was stamped in.
OK cool, then IAH spit me out into arrival hall, where I have to go through security with all departing passengers (the quick passthrough security for connecting flights was closed). After security, I go to the UA club lounge for a quick beer, where the lounge agent reprints my boarding pass to CUN and this one has SSSS on that too. But I'm already past security! The lounge is bad, so I head to the gate, and as we start boarding, my BP fails to scan. Quick chat between GAs and they tell me to just board and they'll sort it out. Well it turns out they couldn't - few mins later the GA comes onboard and asks me to go with her - just as I settle comfortably in my seat and was about to get some pre-flight prosecco. We rush back to security. On the way, she mentions again about the whole Istanbul ticket thingy - at this point, I'm very tired, annoyed, sleepy, pissed off really and have hard time keeping calm and not loosing it. At the security they leisury do their SSSS thing despite my flight is actually about to close. They also do it much more throughout than in Tokyo as in really throwing everything out of my backpack on their table. At this point again I have a hard time keeping calm as I'm super-annoyed. Now the backpack is quite tightly packed, so it takes me a bit of time to re-pack it (even the TSA lady sort of felt sorry and offered to help), then we rush back to the gate and just make the flight. I got my prosecco and big smile as we finally took off.

So some learnings for me:
1) That was totally unexpected. Until your man in Tokyo mentioned the Istanbul thingy, it didn't even cross my mind that this is the reason for all of those issues. Since it was specifically mentioned by the US immigration guy and then even later by the UA staff when walking to security, I feel like it was really the source of all issues.
2) Its unlikely to do with my 2 passports - I've traveled to the US few times before on Irish passport/ESTA and never had an issue.
3) It was particularly annoying as I didn't even need to be in the US. I realize the US do not have a proper transit procedure, but OK what if you deny me entry, are you going to send me away - where? Closest is Mexico and that's exactly where I am actually heading anyway.
4) It wouldn't be half as stressful if not for the last episode of having to leave the aircraft when already boarded, rush to security, etc. Had the IAH-CUN boarding pass printed in NRT have the SSSS already, they'd notice it at IAH security right away. However, before you go through security they actually do scan your boarding pass, why on earth didn't it pop up on their screen at the time? If the lounge agent didn't re-print my boarding pass, would it actually be flagged at all? Why the UA GA didn't page me before boarding if they can see they have SSSS passenger on manifest, just as NH did in NRT? In hindsight though, I should've probably approached the GA myself proactively.
5) I really hope it will not haunt me come ESTA renewal, which is actually fairly soon.

So here we go, be careful with el cheapo ex-IST tickets :-) I'll probably try to avoid connection in the US unless really necessary, I feel like Canada would be so much easier.
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Old May 27, 18, 11:35 am
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This has nothing to do with a RTW ticket, but is a security-related issue as part of immigration. Traveling on an oldish-ESTA on two separate passports, including to/through Turkey, sets of more red flags than one can likely imagine.

Bear in mind that a "red flag" is not something unlawful, merely a flag requiring further inquiry.

The only thing which went wrong for you was that the second "SSSS" boarding pass, the one issued at the UC at IAH was poorly handled by UA. The proper practice would have been for the UC agent to have sent you back to TSA for secondary screening immediately and barring that, for the GA to have done the same. There was no way that aircraft xIAH was going to push with you onboard until TSA had cleared the "SSSS".

I would not make any assumptions about how Canada would handle this.
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Old May 27, 18, 1:16 pm
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I am interested in the proper response to "where would they send me." Normally, if you fail to clear Immigration, you go back to last point of departure (I think - but, I am happy to say, I am not an expert on this). What do more experienced travelers have to say?
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Old May 27, 18, 3:03 pm
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OP, you had to go through TSA twice? I don't really get that part. Why was a second BP issued at the UC?

In general, don't route through the US on an international-to-international connection. There is no bypass of US Immigration and Customs. As to what would have happened if you had been denied entry, most likely they would have put you on a plane back to Tokyo. I doubt if they would have put you on your flight to Mexico. Sounds weird, but I believe that is the procedure.
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Old May 27, 18, 3:24 pm
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Originally Posted by catocony View Post
OP, you had to go through TSA twice? I don't really get that part. Why was a second BP issued at the UC?

In general, don't route through the US on an international-to-international connection. There is no bypass of US Immigration and Customs. As to what would have happened if you had been denied entry, most likely they would have put you on a plane back to Tokyo. I doubt if they would have put you on your flight to Mexico. Sounds weird, but I believe that is the procedure.
The protocol is that you go back to your last point of origin, e.g. NRT in this case. I suppose it is possible that if Mexican authorities expressly agreed in advance to admit the passenger, CBP might route the passenger onward, but an extremely unlikely scenario.

As to the second BP, I presume that there must have been a note on the record which appeared when the UC scanned OP in. Better at the UC than the gate, but the UC dropped the ball on not sending OP back to the checkpoint.
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