German Airports Suffer Second Security Failure In Just 2 Weeks

Filed Under: Lufthansa, Travel

Last week I wrote about the massive disruptions caused at Munich Airport, when a female passenger who had returned to security screening (after checking in her hand luggage to allow her to travel with oversized liquids), somehow breezed through security without being screened.

This meant the entire Terminal 2 had to be evacuated, so that the terminal could be checked, and then every passenger re-screened. This happened on the first day of summer school holidays, one of the busiest travel days of the year.

This resulted in:

  • 330 flights being cancelled
  • 31,000 passengers being affected by delayed or cancelled flights
  • 2,000 passengers sleeping at the airport overnight
  • €1 million ($1.16 million) cost to the airport and airline operators, especially Lufthansa, which operates the most flights from the terminal

Three of the security officers manning the security area were ‘suspended’ (read = fired), which suggests it was a lapse in the security staff performing their task correctly, rather than the passenger being solely to blame. The passenger was not charged with any wrongdoing.

Many of you commented that while it was comforting to see that absolutely no exceptions were taken in regards to security, the lapse should never have happened in the first place.

Well, it has already happened again at another major German airport, only 10 days later.

Frankfurt Airport

This morning in Terminal 1A of Germany’s busiest airport, Frankfurt am Main, a family of four traveling together was initially screened properly but then selected for additional screening to test for explosives. You’ve probably all been stopped for this frustrating, but brief additional check, at some point.

Terminal 1A is a ‘Schengen’ area with 25 gates, used for European flights to Schengen destinations, primarily by the Lufthansa Group and its Star Alliance partners.

Frankfurt Airport Map

Somehow, the explosives test came back positive, but due to an error by the security staff, the passengers were allowed to proceed into the sterile airside area of the terminal.

Like in Munich late last month, the entire Terminal 1A was evacuated for two hours. The family in question was located, searched, questioned and allowed to continue on with their journey.

Frankfurt police simply announced:

There has been a police deployment in area A of Terminal 1. This has lead to an immediate suspension of boarding, and the clearing of the security area on levels two and three.

As you might imagine, there was chaos in the terminal as thousands of passengers waited to be re-screened.

Passengers at Frankfurt Airport waiting to be re screened (Source: Twitter: TheMaxamillion)
Passengers at Frankfurt Airport waiting to be re screened (Source: Twitter: jimenezroy)

After two hours the terminal was re-opened with passengers allowed to be re-screened to continue to their flights.

It’s still too early to know the full extent of the impact on passengers, but I can see it is having a huge impact on Lufthansa’s operations today, with most flights either delayed or cancelled.

Bottom line

It’s crazy to think a second security lapse has occurred in less than 2 weeks. Surely the Munich incident would have been a massive wake up call for all airports in Germany.

While both airports are operated by different companies, I would be amazed if there wasn’t some memo or reminder that went out to Frankfurt security staff after the Munich incident to show just how much damage a single lapse in security can have, and remind Frankfurt staff how important vigilance is.

And once again Lufthansa will suffer the most financial impact.

It’s too early to know whether this lapse will have as big an impact as the Munich incident. Hopefully not!

Whatever happened to German efficiency?

  1. Cost of thousands of passengers delayed > (cost of a few hundred dead * miniuscule probability they had a bomb. )

    Let people die! Stop thinking in absolutes. Start thinking ROIs. The replublitards already do that when they pass tax cuts instead of healthcare.

  2. German efficiency never existed – from someone who worked for the German automotive industry, in Germany, for 15 years. Never has there been an industry so convoluted in bureaucracy and red-tape. The Swiss and the Japanese are the leaders in efficiency, in my opinion.

  3. Can you source pictures with the actual source and not Twitter? Twitter isn’t a source and doesn’t own the pictures.

  4. You mentioned something in another post about attending Pride somewhere. Although only obliquely relevant here, I hope you’ll be signing the All Out petition to Lufthansa in relation to the ” all homosexuals should be killed” comment made to a passenger by a Lufthansa employee ( in reference to a Pride event).
    In respect of this security issue, no one likes to see passengers inconvenienced, but I won’t be weeping over any financial hit to Lufthansa.

  5. Lufthansa can seek remuneration from the security company for costs incurred. Airlines often do this when third parties cause them costs. Eg if handling agent denies boarding to a passenger in error and the airline pays €600 they will charge the agent

    @ paolo the idiot that is alleged to have made that comment as get a new job considering a large number of front line staff are gay

    @ debit what’s the purpose of your comments since you never have anything constructive to say about travel and doubt you have a clue about anything in the industry

  6. I took a flight from TXL to BRU to weeks ago and beside being insulted by the security officers, my bags haven’t been cecked at all.
    There’s a serious problem with german airport security…

  7. I just saw another aritcle on this on Twitter and was hoping you would do an article on it! 😉

  8. I’m not especially surprised this has happened again. I’ve never been that impressed with the security process in ANY European country. All a would-be terrorist has to do is wait to pass security until an important soccer match is playing on tv.

  9. Does anyone know where this falls under EU261? It wasn’t an actual security issue as covered under the extraordinary circumstances. This was negligence on behalf of airport staff . I know this was spoke about during the Muc incident last week. Anyway on my 12th hour here at FRA almost done rebooking everything. Sometimes having status does not move things any quicker!

  10. I am stuck in this mess in FRA. First, both A and Z gates were evacuated. LH tried their best dealing with angry passengers, but the airport services and federal police behaved like total idiots.

    German efficiency – are you kidding me? No information, no announcements, bunch of transatlantic flights leaving half-empty while their passengers are still queuing up for passport and security re-screening, causing even more passengers to miss their flights. How hard would be to announce flights that already departed and save people from going through passport control twice, only to end back in Germany?

    And then there was ONE officer handling passport control for all departing non-EU citizens being re-screened, and only TWO security lanes (each with a body scanner and 2 X-ray carry-on bag scanners) servicing all Z gates.

    And all of that for the sake of completely useless security theater.

  11. @Debit – Your perspective intrigues me. I don’t always agree with you, but I appreciate the perspective all the same.

  12. Ha, yeah i was also in it, they cleared the a concourse 5 minutes before boarding.
    Still in Frankfurt now since i did not want to waitlist on the last flight for today, (it actually took 3 hours for them to re-open the a concourse, and then at least another 3 hrs to get back in for 50% of the people).
    And yes, communication would have helped. about 50% of the people i talked to had no chance in hell to actually get their flight but still queud up everywhere, which then made a lot more people miss their flights…

  13. So my LH flight from Venice to Frankfurt got cancelled tonight (on way to Prague). It was my excursion perk flight in business class. LH ended up putting me on a direct Czech flight in economy (ATR 72). Ended up getting to Prague an hour earlier and got charged a heavy bag fee (bag would have been fine if LH business). Also did get to use lounge. Am I owed comp from LH? Having trouble understanding what I should be looking for.

  14. I don’t know why you and lucky do these things, a news story should not starts with 5 paragraphs about somethings happened last week! if there is something related it should be mentioned at the end.

  15. @James – I really like your posts but the amount of bolding and italicising is getting a bit out of hand. Please don’t turn into the tabloid-style of writing like AusBT.

  16. “Whatever happened to German efficiency?” I have dealt with a number of different countries in Europe since the late 1970s. Each one has its own particular “personality quirks”. I know that what I am writing is a lot of stereotyping and indeed there are exceptions to everything when human behavior is involved. Nevertheless, what I have noticed about “German efficiency” is that it is based on extensive planning and even when the plan obviously will end in complete failure, Germans are still very reluctant to abandon it and start to improvise. The world has to be “alles in ordnung”.

  17. @ emercycrite – I will tone down the itcalicising because I don’t think it looks great either, but the bolding and paragraph spacing is an important part of blogging to control the speed at which the reader reads.
    Blogging is very different to writing, as I have learnt.

  18. I am lucky one which my flight has been cancelled. Yesterday I was in Berlin Tegel airport waiting for my flight to Frankfurt. At first, flight was slightly delayed around 40 mins. After flight parking in the gate, the ground stuff announced this flight has been cancelled due to security reason in Frankfurt. The most terrible thing is all of our luggage has been checked in. We have to go to baggage center to find our luggage and recheck again. However, it’s almost like mission impossible. LH baggage counter was closed at that moment and all of us has been reroute to next hours flight to reach our finally destination. Some even worth, they issued the flight which is only one hour from the things happen. Everything was chaos at that moment. Most of passage in stead of waiting for luggage at baggage center, they directly go to gate and claim the baggage lost in their final destination.

  19. I was @FRA with my family yesterday. The police takeover of the situation was embarrassing to say the least. No communication.
    The speakers around the airport don’t really work and with hundreds of people walking and chatting it was impossible to hear anything, the volume was way too low.
    It was almost 3 hrs from the first announcement (we were in the lounge just before the Z pier) till they re-opened (we got back
    In from the A security checkpoint right behind the circular glass windows, and where among the first 100 (if not fewer) passengers to get to
    The security checkpoint, which surprisingly (or not) was manned but not 100% (I bet they had all the time to) for another 5’ after I reached the front of the line.
    We got to MCO just over 3hrs late, so E261 doesn’t apply (needs to be over 4 hrs for flight longer than 1500Km).

  20. And it’s happening again! Now in Munich passport control suspended nobody getting in gates H or L as the police is searching for somebody. Flights delayed , It’s gonna be a long day.

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