From the Independent:

Visiting certain countries, taking unusual flight routes and last minute ticket changes are known to prompt extra checks.

I understand "certain countries", but why would a last minute ticket change be suspicious to border police?

And what would be an example of suspicious "unusual flight routes"?

  • 2
    It's esay enough to think of unusual routes; that's just whatever doesn't seem to make sense. Frankfurt to London with a layover in Bangkok? Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 15:50
  • Last minute ticket changes could be suspicious as it could be an attempt by the traveller to hide or camouflage their real point of origin or destination, similar to the ‘‘layering’ stage of money-laundering where criminals use complex financial transactions to disguise the source of the funds.
    – Traveller
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 6:25

3 Answers 3


From the article:

Visiting certain countries, taking unusual flight routes and last minute ticket changes are known to prompt extra checks.

Honestly, to me "are known" is just bad journalism indicating "I'm too lazy to research this". If there is credible source for this claim, it should be cited so the underlying data or research can be verified and studied. If there is no source, the claim should not be made.

So it's entirely possible that last minute ticket changes have nothing to do with this. In fact, United offers free same day ticket changes to their premier members and 1000s of passengers take advantage of this every day with no noticeable difference in security procedures.

I do get the dreaded SSSS marker on the boarding pass (extra carry baggage search) a few times when travelling in Europe, but it seems to be entirely random and not associated with any of the factors mentioned in the article.

  • 1
    100%. Are known is a way of saying something without opening yourself to fact checks.
    – SergeyA
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 14:22

This is not a case of "if you do x it probably means you plan y." It is more "people who plan y almost always x." In this case, if you are going to hijack a plane, or perform a suicide bombing, you are unlikely to buy the tickets and patiently wait 6 weeks. You don't care how much it costs, since either someone else is funding it or you will never pay the credit card bill anyway.

There is quite a lot of after-the-fact investigations that hijackers and bombers buy their tickets at the last minute. This of course does not mean that people who buy their tickets at the last minute are up to no good. Most are just on their way to funerals or emergency business meetings. That's a quick enough thing to establish with a little extra searching, which is all that happens to you when you're flagged for this reason.

This has happened to me - I had a business trip Mon-Wed, and late Tues we decided we needed another day, so I changed my flight, and thus earned the SSSS. I was told it was because the ticket was "bought" at the last minute even though it was only changed. (This makes sense, our bad guys could buy a ticket for 6 weeks from now then change it to the very next day, so exemptions for changes aren't clever.)

Authorities are well aware that there are many reasons for buying tickets at the last minute, changing routes at the last minute, or taking "the long way" between A and B. Most of those reasons are innocuous. Some are not, so you get a little extra screening to make sure you're in the harmless category.


It may be just that border police checks in advance your planned route so that you can pass controls quickly. In case of a last minute change, they have to check again. Nothing "suspicious" there.

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