Lufthansa Fanboy Accused Of Spying On CEO After Selfie Snub

Lufthansa Fanboy Accused Of Spying On CEO After Selfie Snub

45

I’m not sure what exactly to make of this, other than that Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr maybe doesn’t have much of a sense of humor, and some people also have strange idols?

Lufthansa CEO dismissive to loyal customer & fan

There’s a story circulating in German media about how a Lufthansa frequent flyer has been pursued by the company’s security staff for apparently being too big of a fan of the company’s CEO, or something?

Charles Bahr is a 21-year-old German entrepreneur, who runs a Gen Z consulting company (to help companies position things for Gen Z consumers). He’s also an aviation geek and a big Lufthansa fan — he’s a Miles & More HON Circle member, which is the carrier’s top-tier status. I have to imagine he’s the youngest (or one of the youngest) to hold this exclusive tier.

This drama dates back to September 2022, when Bahr found himself on a flight with Spohr. According to Bahr, “I spoke to him very politely and told him that I fly with the airline 100 times a year,” but Spohr seemed uninterested, and just continued reading his newspaper.

Bahr then “later asked him again in a friendly manner for a photo, but he said no and said that he generally doesn’t take photos.” Bahr is skeptical of that, because many of his friends have photos with Spohr, and he concludes that “I put myself in the position where one of my most loyal customers comes, then you should always be nice and take a moment.”

Bahr apparently couldn’t get this incident out of his head, so he created a life-sized cardboard cutout of Spohr, and then brought it to Berlin Airport (BER), where he took a picture with it at the Lufthansa check-in area. He then took to LinkedIn to share his experience being rejected by Spohr, and also shared the picture of him with the cutout.

Bahr’s picture with a cutout of Spohr

Lufthansa security staff get involved

In December 2022, following the LinkedIn post, Lufthansa’s “head of executive protection” reached out to Munich police to accuse Bahr of posing a threat to and spying on Lufthansa’s CEO. Bahr was accused of somehow hacking into Lufthansa’s systems and figuring out the travel plans of Spohr.

This is an accusation that Bahr vehemently denies. Bahr states that about a year ago, he had an appointment with Lufthansa regarding TikTok, during which he pointed out a security flaw. Specifically, he pointed out how the QR codes on Lufthansa boarding passes would allow anyone to access the personal details of flyers, and this apparently even impacted Spohr directly. However, Bahr was bringing this to the company’s attention, and claims he wasn’t personally exploiting this (for that matter, this is a security concern at many airlines).

The head of executive protection asked to meet with Bahr, so the two met at a private apartment in Frankfurt. According to Bahr, “the meeting was like in a movie, my cell phone was put in a case and no recordings were supposed to be made.”

Bahr was asked to confirm if he hacked into Lufthansa’s systems or spied on Sphor in any way. The Lufthansa security officer reportedly claimed, “I have blacklisted six people this year and you would be the seventh.” He also claimed that he knew people at MDAX and TikTok, and could get him in trouble there, as well as at SWISS and United.

Bahr was also asked about his participation in a WhatsApp group about Lufthansa. The security official claimed that the group was named “Carsten Spohr muss weg” (“muss weg” translates “has to go”). Bahr made it clear that he hadn’t done anything wrong, and apparently not much more came from that incident. He was even invited to a Lufthansa event in May 2023, at which Spohr was in attendance. Yet he’s also coming public with this entire story more recently.

Bahr concludes that “I think that I have upset Mr. Spohr with my LinkedIn post, the reach and the cardboard cutout and they are simply trying to intimidate me in some way,” and he acknowledges that this “partly worked because I deleted my post.” Bahr claims to still love the Lufthansa brand.

What a strange situation…

I’m not sure what exactly to make of this, other than that this has to be one of the strangest “security” stories that I’ve ever heard involving an airline executive.

Admittedly we only have one side of the story, though the news organizations reporting on this claim to have copies of a lot of the correspondences, which largely corroborate this version of events.

What can we really conclude here?

  • To be honest, I’m kind of puzzled by someone having Spohr as their idol; are you more impressed by his seven year delay on Allegris, his short lived Skytrax award, or the number of airline subsidiaries he’s been able to start up and subsequently shut down?
  • Creating a cardboard cutout of the CEO is no doubt weird, but I don’t see any way in which that poses a safety risk; this seems to me more like a young person trying to get some attention, or something
  • While I can’t imagine Bahr posed any sort of actual risk at any point, I am curious if there’s more to the story; did Lufthansa maybe have evidence that an internal system was being accessed to figure out Spohr’s travel plans, so his flights with Spohr weren’t actually a coincidence?

Bottom line

A 21-year-old Lufthansa super fan claims to have flown with CEO Carsten Spohr, only to be rejected for a picture. So he made a cardboard cutout of him, took a picture with it at Berlin Airport, and wrote about it on LinkedIn.

Thereafter, Lufthansa’s head of executive protection not only reached out to the police, but also set up a creepy meeting in a private apartment, which does indeed sound straight out of a movie. I don’t know what to think here other than being confused.

What do you make of this Lufthansa story?

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  1. Jonathan Guest

    Meanwhile in Dublin, a Ryanair super fan was caught carrying a cardboard cut out of Michael O:’Leary…
    When questioned by the Ryan security police, the superfan - now identified as a Mr William Walsh -stated ‘I tried to print out a boarding card, but got this instead. Thank….it wasn’t a 3d printer…’

  2. George Romey Guest

    Newsflash to this kid. No airline CEO has ever had an interest in someone that flys there airline 100 times a year. You're just not all that pumpkin.

    1. Samo Guest

      Flying an airline 100 times gets you SEN. To become HON, you need to have significant spend with the company, frequently flying longhaul premium cabins (or perhaps European premium cabins several times every week).

  3. Madrid Guest

    That’s why they say ‘never meet your hero’

  4. Jordan Diamond

    I'm going to ask. Were they having an affair or previous encounters?

  5. Peter Guest

    HON Circle at 21. His parents must be wealthy.

  6. MIke Guest

    Gosh - this story made me feel so old. It all seems so weird and pointless.
    Talk about entitlement - "The CEO agreed to have his photo taken with other bloggers and not with me !!"
    Should have stopped reading at the Gen-Z Consultancy point...
    Jokes aside - I am almost sure that there are two, maybe more, stories in this, and probably nobody comes out of it looking good...

  7. GUWonder Guest

    Some more info and even spin on this situation to be found in German here:

    https://www.airliners.de/gossip-galley-papp-spohr-gate-versucht-lufthansa-21-influencer-einzuschuechtern/71996

    Interestingly they are trying to insinuate that he may have used the LH QR code debacle to stalk Spohr, and yet it wouldn’t shock me if LH have no proof of that having been done by Bahr to run into Spohr. It seems like Bahr didn’t run into Spohr enough for that “possible exploit” to even be of interest...

    Some more info and even spin on this situation to be found in German here:

    https://www.airliners.de/gossip-galley-papp-spohr-gate-versucht-lufthansa-21-influencer-einzuschuechtern/71996

    Interestingly they are trying to insinuate that he may have used the LH QR code debacle to stalk Spohr, and yet it wouldn’t shock me if LH have no proof of that having been done by Bahr to run into Spohr. It seems like Bahr didn’t run into Spohr enough for that “possible exploit” to even be of interest to Bahr.

    1. Jeff Guest

      Why am I suddenly wondering if a cutout of Ed Bastian were ever made?

  8. Brian G. Gold

    The private apartment meeting with security really sounds made up. Yes HON Circle members are commercially important, but they were just kick him out of the program they actually thought he was a threat to the airline/CEO.

    1. GUWonder Guest

      It is possible, as sometimes big companies who want to investigate or disappear a user of their services will have rather zealous company “security” or even hired/retained legal guns engage in just such approaches.

      As someone who used to get some briefings about what former FBI agents did after going down the “corporate security” road, I will note that this kind of thing is not only possible but that it has happened occasionally at least with other companies.

    2. Icarus Guest

      No. It’s not the movie Torn Curtain. They just blacklist the passengers and send a letter/ email out with an explanation.

    3. GUWonder Guest

      Oh, yes, they do sometimes do want in-person visits, even as they more typically just blacklist the individual and send some letter or other communication relaying the message. If they believed he had a backdoor to monitor Spohr and thought they could shake out information from him, intimidation tactics like this sometimes do take place. I say this as someone who is skeptical about the credibility of at least some of Bahr’s claims on this...

      Oh, yes, they do sometimes do want in-person visits, even as they more typically just blacklist the individual and send some letter or other communication relaying the message. If they believed he had a backdoor to monitor Spohr and thought they could shake out information from him, intimidation tactics like this sometimes do take place. I say this as someone who is skeptical about the credibility of at least some of Bahr’s claims on this matter.

      By the way, never heard of the movie you mentioned. Did it ever make it as a movie on the IFE systems? If it’s not been a movie on the IFE on my long-haul international flights, I almost certainly won’t ever even come across it and watch it.

  9. GUWonder Guest

    If the company “security” people really have any proof of criminal wrongdoing, then they should either put up or shut their trap.

    Seems as if the company wants to try to intimidate the relatively young loyalist customer and extort information out of him while it’s also peddling a narrative of him being a criminal hacker and stalker. That and maybe they want to try to chase him away just because they don’t like the guy putting them on the spot publicly.

    1. Chocolate Factory Guest

      They have pressed charges against the “influencer” for threatening behavior.

    2. GUWonder Guest

      That’s easy to do in Germany, where there is private prosecution as a route even before and after the government prosecutors have nothing to go on to get a conviction in fair and open trial.

      Let’s see where the “charges” go, or if it’s basically malicious prosecution and/or the German equivalent of a SLAPP suit.

  10. Samo Guest

    This is wrong on every level. If there's a security breach in LH's systems (which I doubt to be THIS case, though it's obvious their their IT resembles a Swiss cheese), then approach the person who figured it out and motivate them to help you fix them.

    If you're personally offended that your customers think you're running the company into the ground, don't give them more reasons to think so.

    The only thing the...

    This is wrong on every level. If there's a security breach in LH's systems (which I doubt to be THIS case, though it's obvious their their IT resembles a Swiss cheese), then approach the person who figured it out and motivate them to help you fix them.

    If you're personally offended that your customers think you're running the company into the ground, don't give them more reasons to think so.

    The only thing the guy did wrong is to fly Lufthansa so much to earn HON. It's pretty obvious they hate their customers so perhaps shift your business elsewhere. There are plenty other carriers happy to take your money. I've made it my personal goal to never set a foot on their planes again (or at least for a few years) and my travel experience is now much better even though it sometimes means taking a detour.

  11. Joe Guest

    The irony of Lucky calling someone else a “Lufthansa fanboy”…

  12. Greg Guest

    I'm confused why his encounter with the head of security became a media story only in December, months, or a year after the purported meeting took place

    And after he was invited back by Lufthansa months earlier, and no flight bans

  13. Sean M. Diamond

    Airlines seem to attract particularly crazy fans/customers. Although I have not been as prominent as Spohr, I have had irate customers show up at my home and my hotel rooms multiple times to express displeasure over issues such as delayed baggage and flight delays. My parents received threatening phone calls after a passenger was denied boarding. I've also had colleagues followed home and attacked in their parking lot by passengers who felt wronged.

    I...

    Airlines seem to attract particularly crazy fans/customers. Although I have not been as prominent as Spohr, I have had irate customers show up at my home and my hotel rooms multiple times to express displeasure over issues such as delayed baggage and flight delays. My parents received threatening phone calls after a passenger was denied boarding. I've also had colleagues followed home and attacked in their parking lot by passengers who felt wronged.

    I can easily see how a vocal customer with a life sized cutout of the CEO would raise flags with corporate security at a company like Lufthansa. Especially if there is a history of possible tech security issues as well. At the end of the day, the parties met and came away reasonably amicably. Alls well that ends well.

    1. GUWonder Guest

      Like day is to night, there are key differences between

      (A) this customer making fun of the CEO and his own desire in getting a photo with the CEO by using a self-designed cut-out

      and

      (B) a person being engaged in any of the threatening and violent behaviors which you and your colleagues have experienced.

    2. Nick Guest

      @GUWonder. You are pretending to know someone’s mind/true intent. Maybe it’s a joke, maybe not, but if my job is security, I’d be leaning on the caution side.

      In the case of recent events…thinking of so many siding with terrorists

    3. GUWonder Guest

      This Spohr-Bahr Lufthansa situation precedes October 7, 2023.

      And this kind of “corporate security” from LH doesn’t inspire confidence in the judgment and PR capabilities of the insecure “mature” ones involved in this matter. The young HON guy is mocking the mockery that Spohr and LH have created for themselves in this matter.

      The “security” canard doesn’t move me. It’s tossed around a lot to try to justify a lot of nonsense by the...

      This Spohr-Bahr Lufthansa situation precedes October 7, 2023.

      And this kind of “corporate security” from LH doesn’t inspire confidence in the judgment and PR capabilities of the insecure “mature” ones involved in this matter. The young HON guy is mocking the mockery that Spohr and LH have created for themselves in this matter.

      The “security” canard doesn’t move me. It’s tossed around a lot to try to justify a lot of nonsense by the institutionally-privileges and to short-circuit and even disappear due criticism and skepticism for the actions of institutionally-privileged actors and their own apologists with questionable behavior.

    4. Samo Guest

      Considering a cutout of someone's picture to be a security threat must be one of the most American things I've ever read :D For god's sake, you can buy a cut out of just about any celebrity on Amazon.

      It's an obvious joke. Even though Lufthansa's actions seem to be rather unreasonable, I'm confident they weren't triggered by the cutout.

  14. CPH-Flyer Gold

    Here's the thing, CEOs are typically quite recognisable persons. And being CEO of a service organisation seems incredulous to snub a customer like that. Mind you we only have one side of the story....

    1. Brian G. Gold

      For me that reinforces that he was either stalking or bothering the CEO in the past. Airline CEOs are generally used to posing for photos at airports (mostly with employees), if he rejects the request he probably has a good reason.

    2. GUWonder Guest

      If Heidi Klum were the customer who went up to him for a photo with him on a flight together, you can bet this “boss” and his “security” wouldn’t have behaved like this.

      Part of the measure of being a competent, high-profile public figure and decent human being is to know how to interact with the public that supports you and interact in a way as to avoid making a negative story about what wouldn’t otherwise be such a story at all.

    3. GUWonder Guest

      The Bahr guy sounds annoying and socially clueless as he didn’t get the hint when the airline boss was busy reading a newspaper and didn’t appear interested at the first approach. But the escalation by LH doesn’t inspire confidence in LH’s CEO and his judgment and people skills.

    4. Icarus Guest

      If he’s a known stalker, harassing him and was given a warning he would be on a watch list and spoken to during checkin and boarding. Otherwise any normal person could approach him and say “ hello Mr Spohr, I hope I’m not disturbing you, but is it possible to talk “?

      Honestly we will never know and it’s just conjecture.

    5. GUWonder Guest

      He already acknowledged that he disturbed Spohr while Spohr was reading a newspaper. Trying to get his attention while he was reading a newspaper is a far cry from engaging in stalking or harassing someone, even as what he did can be taken as obnoxious and disruptive by the person who just wants to read their paper and be left alone by “annoying” customer(s), passengers or even airline crew working the flight.

  15. DenB Diamond

    People over 50 and people under 30 have always found each other alien. For me (63) this case is like the Qatar/Cahill story. Unfortunate features of our current era: The obsession with "security" and the mislabelling of matters as "security" matters when really they're something else; The tendency of large organizations to leave their "security" people unscrutinized; it's amazing how many companies have no mechanism to complain when a "security" employee behaves badly, whether Flight...

    People over 50 and people under 30 have always found each other alien. For me (63) this case is like the Qatar/Cahill story. Unfortunate features of our current era: The obsession with "security" and the mislabelling of matters as "security" matters when really they're something else; The tendency of large organizations to leave their "security" people unscrutinized; it's amazing how many companies have no mechanism to complain when a "security" employee behaves badly, whether Flight Attendant Bullies, Corporate Security thugs (often referred to as "officers" when they're no such thing) or judge/jury/executioner border control officers; Mature corporate executives, unable to comprehend the young and social media. Making an enemy of a fanboy or flight reviewer (or anyone) with reach is as bad a decision as an executive can make. To Spohr, I'd just say "good luck with that".

  16. ORD_Is_My_Second_Home Member

    This is a 21-year-old kid who's made HON Circle. There are only about six thousand HON Circles in the world. It's the ultimate invite-only status. Frankly, Spohr should have been told by the FAs that there was a HON Circle on board and he should have gone back to thank the kid.

    That being said, the kid is a little creepy, but that doesn't mean he's dangerous. If creepy behavior alone (not crossing over into...

    This is a 21-year-old kid who's made HON Circle. There are only about six thousand HON Circles in the world. It's the ultimate invite-only status. Frankly, Spohr should have been told by the FAs that there was a HON Circle on board and he should have gone back to thank the kid.

    That being said, the kid is a little creepy, but that doesn't mean he's dangerous. If creepy behavior alone (not crossing over into stalkerdom) could get someone put into custody, Ed Bastian would have put Tim Dunn in a rubber roo

    1. Tim Is So Done Guest

      A premium rubber room at that.

    2. Chris Guest

      HON is not invited only, it has a clear published criteria. While not quite as you I had HON status in my early 20s, and that did certainly confuse some people.

  17. Tien Guest

    Spohr is well known as the person with Lufthansa who is interested in everything but the customers!

  18. Icarus Guest

    Sounds like BS. If you meet the CEO inflight they are not going to tell a customer not to bother them.

    1. Samo Guest

      Lufthansa is telling their customers to not bother them on a daily basis, there is no reason to think their CEO is any different. Hell, they're even openly advising their customers that any bags checked through MUC on Fridays will be lost. That's what third world five star airlines are like.

  19. Chocolate Factory Guest

    Minor correction: According to Bahr, LH’s head of security said banning him from LH Group wouldn’t automatically ban him from flying Swiss or UA, but that he knows their heads of security well, so it would only take him a phone call to get him blacklisted with those airlines as well.

    The MDAX is the German equivalent of the Nasdaq index. According to Bahr, he also claimed to know a lot of people in high...

    Minor correction: According to Bahr, LH’s head of security said banning him from LH Group wouldn’t automatically ban him from flying Swiss or UA, but that he knows their heads of security well, so it would only take him a phone call to get him blacklisted with those airlines as well.

    The MDAX is the German equivalent of the Nasdaq index. According to Bahr, he also claimed to know a lot of people in high positions in DAX/MDAX (basically, the German equivalent of Fortune500 companies), and that he would make sure he’d never get a job again: “You were fired from TikTok as well. I can make sure no one will hire you again, then you can work at a supermarket checkout.”

    Bahr was allegedly fired from TikTok for submitting bogus expense reports. He sued TikTok and they settled and TikTok dropped the claims.

    1. Icarus Guest

      You can’t be blacklisted from an entire airline group There’s also a gdpr issue relating to sharing data . KLM does mention transavia in their conditions of carriage. LH cannot ban customers from travelling on UA. To be blacklisted it also has to be something serious such as a physical assault or threats, otherwise airlines would ban most bloggers.

    2. Greg Guest

      The security guy was saying he could contact United - and insinuated United might take its own action. He didn't say he could unilaterally ban him from United.

      The 'you can work at a supermarket checkout' threat has awkward Bond villain satire vibes

    3. GUWonder Guest

      Company-privileged bullies have a lot in common with the mafia and its ways: try to scare the target by insinuating what else may be done to try to disrupt the target’s life if the target doesn’t bend the knee for and kiss the ring of the mafia dons and any and all “enforcers” working for the mafia dons.

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Samo Guest

Lufthansa is telling their customers to not bother them on a daily basis, there is no reason to think their CEO is any different. Hell, they're even openly advising their customers that any bags checked through MUC on Fridays will be lost. That's what third world five star airlines are like.

5
DenB Diamond

People over 50 and people under 30 have always found each other alien. For me (63) this case is like the Qatar/Cahill story. Unfortunate features of our current era: The obsession with "security" and the mislabelling of matters as "security" matters when really they're something else; The tendency of large organizations to leave their "security" people unscrutinized; it's amazing how many companies have no mechanism to complain when a "security" employee behaves badly, whether Flight Attendant Bullies, Corporate Security thugs (often referred to as "officers" when they're no such thing) or judge/jury/executioner border control officers; Mature corporate executives, unable to comprehend the young and social media. Making an enemy of a fanboy or flight reviewer (or anyone) with reach is as bad a decision as an executive can make. To Spohr, I'd just say "good luck with that".

3
GUWonder Guest

This Spohr-Bahr Lufthansa situation precedes October 7, 2023. And this kind of “corporate security” from LH doesn’t inspire confidence in the judgment and PR capabilities of the insecure “mature” ones involved in this matter. The young HON guy is mocking the mockery that Spohr and LH have created for themselves in this matter. The “security” canard doesn’t move me. It’s tossed around a lot to try to justify a lot of nonsense by the institutionally-privileges and to short-circuit and even disappear due criticism and skepticism for the actions of institutionally-privileged actors and their own apologists with questionable behavior.

2
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