Is it really Random?

22 Jan

Most of you know about the perils that I went through on my return journey to SFO from BLR. I have logged it in my personal blog. When I was clearing security check at Washington, I was one of the privileged few to get into a special line.HOORAY !! Feels good to be important, huh? I was told that the selection is random. Is it really random ? Did you know that it is actually the airline that chooses these random people and not the security folks. So, its not your face. Even if you are pretty and seductive, you can still get special treatment.It might work at Customs and Immigration Check though.

My sister who travels a lot is so accustomed to the screening that she enters with wide open arms into the security check ( pun intended!) . She gave me this little tidbit on how to find out if you will be considered a security hazard. Look for “SSSS” in your boarding pass, which translates to a special line with special treatment. Does it stand for Souls requiring Special Security Screening?. No, it is actually Secondary Security Screening Selection.Is the process really random? In my line, most of us were traveling alone, but again there was a family from Ethiopia in front of me. There was a spanish lady with two kids.I would like to believe it is random, but it feels discriminatory if the same people get selected most of the times like my sister. Wikipedia has some answers to these questions. Check this link.


Posted by on January 22, 2008 in From AM-KICKING blog


5 responses to “Is it really Random?

  1. Mad Max

    January 22, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    @ Survivor: I dont think it is random either…I think what they have is deterministic criteria…if you fall in that criteria you are likely to be in for the special check…then the desk staff will determine your fate depending on the time to departure and crowd in the airport…having learnt this the trick of the trade is show up at the counter 30 minutes prior to departure and put up a real sorry face…

  2. Mindframes

    January 22, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    read up that wikipedia link. It looks like, in ur case, it satisfies one of the obvious conditions (ticket booked under 24 hours). Looks like, if someone is in a hurry with last minute travel plan, chances are very high that they will encounter more delay at the security counter… I dont know if the boarding passes printed online does the SSSS marking as well…

  3. Srikrishnan

    January 22, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Unrelated note: Chaos that happened in your journey from Blore to San Francisco seems like a choreographed events of fate (Not random at all) :0

    Based on my experience (that means very
    limited data points), they have some filters and still leave some room for total randomness. Randomness is to give the feeling it is non-discriminative process. I’ve seen some Average American Joe/Joane in the queue.

    But again, these limited random slots can be filled in by anyone (read Subcontinent/Middle-eastern). So it increases the probability for us.

  4. Saumya

    January 23, 2008 at 9:54 pm


    There was a time when I used to fly frequently between Dallas and here. I used to wear salwar kameez (I am very comfortable in them). I realised I was being pulled aside on every trip! Then Sriks suggested that salwar may be the issue. The first time I wore pants, I made it through without checking, and quite a few times afterward.

    It may have nothing to do at all with the selection , but the perception of the persons who are screening you matters. Since they don’t want to take any chances now – anybody middle east/Indian looking person is selected I guess.

    I must admit it is more frustrating

  5. sdpal

    January 28, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    One of my colleague, who is a muslim guy (with a long beard), left qualcomm and moved to Bangladesh, said one of the reason for his moving is this security check on him everywhere he goes.
    For him, he says its not random. He was never spared security check and usually for him they take one hour during immigration and a special room (and lot of questioning), after 14 hours of travel, with his kids and family..


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