When you’re prepared to fly and have your boarding pass in hand, you’ll see there’s a bunch of gobbledeegook that’s on it. They’re all code that gate agents and flight attendants understand. But in the past we’ve explained what a lot of those various numbers and letters mean (we’ve also written a post about what to do if your TSA PreCheck status isn’t on your boarding pass, just in case).
There’s one code that most flyers don’t want to see/have on their boarding pass – the “dreaded” SSSS – here’s why.
Many people have written about why having SSSS on your boarding pass is so awful and what can happen if you’re “lucky” enough to have it on your. As one blogger wrote:
…may include enhanced pat-downs and their carry-on luggage may also be inspected by hand. If they have film or other items that can’t be X-rayed, the TSA agent may perform a test for possible explosive materials (here’s now to make sure you don’t get a false positive for those!). The screener may also use a hand-held metal detector to search the passenger for metal objects.
You may also have to answer questions about your travel, or wait around why the agents do heightened security checks on your passport or identity.
So yeah, having SSSS on your passport is a pain, but assuming you haven’t done anything wrong, it just wastes a few minutes of your time while they do their thing (that being said, it’s another reason to make sure you get to the airport early enough to ensurer you have ample time for delays such as these). There’s a code you may see on your boarding pass that could be much, much worse.
You’ll see it where your seat assignment should be, and that’s the problem…if you see GTE on your boarding pass, you don’t have a seat assignment for your plane. In fact, you might not even have a seat. GTE stands for “gate” and it could mean anything from, “your flight is overbooked and you may not get on that plane,” to “Nah, don’t worry; you’ll get on the plane. You just don’t have a seat assignment yet.”
OK, the latter one isn’t so bad. But that first one? Ewwwwwww.
By the way, not all airlines use the code GTE. Some use SEE AGENT or some other words that, even if you don’t know what the issue is, at least you know what you need to do. GTE, although yeah, similar to G-A-T-E, is still just…gobbledeegook.
Years ago, there was a big brough-ha-ha that Air Canada was purposely overselling their flights (which, hello, they all do), but would then be less than transparent with customers who weremore likely to be denied boarding because a flight had been oversold. Instead, they’d see you had GTE on your boarding pass and not mention anything. They’d just leave it for the gate agents to deal with (wasn’t that sweet of them?)
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To be fair, I think that their system makes a good deal of sense although it sucks for the individual. Presumably the airline is figuring that there’s a pretty good likelihood of the person making the flight but they can’t get past security without a boarding pass. If the flight is overbooked the airline will have to try to bribe passengers to take a bump. If the person with the GTE on their boarding pass is lurking by the check-in counter to wait for a boarding pass with an actual seat number, they will cause some delays if they have to pass through security and walk to the gate.
‘Tis far better to get “GTE” from the airline on your boarding pass than “GTFO”, lol
On a serious note, most airlines now have check-in kiosks that allow you to view/change seat assignments before your boarding passes are printed, meaning you should already be aware if you are heading (through security and) to the gate without assigned seats.