It was quite a bizarre scene at Munich Airport on Saturday when a woman simply walked through a security checkpoint at Terminal 2, resulting in the complete evacuation of the sterile area.
As a result of the security checkpoint’s negligence a total of 330 flights were cancelled and 2000 passengers eventually got stranded at the airport overnight with Lufthansa being the most affected carrier.
The incident and the cancelled flights resulting from it sent shock waves throughout the Lufthansa network, causing chaos at Frankfurt Airport as well as Munich which is Lufthansa’s second hub and handles a substantial amount of traffic.
If you’re interested to read about the entire thing in German, this TZ article is the best source.
What exactly happened?
- 5:27 am: A female passenger undergoes the security check and excess liquids are detected in her baggage. She takes the suitcase back to the check-in counter to check it as regular baggage instead of carry-on.
- 5:45 am: The same passenger returned roughly 20 minutes later to the same checkpoint which wasn’t properly supervised. The passenger walked right through the same line she used previously but which was now closed, likely in the assumption that she had been checked before so a repeat isn’t required (obviously wrong). Nobody noticed that at first. The responsible company who conducts security checks at Munich Airport is Sicherheitsgesellschaft am Flughafen München mbH-SGM.
- 6:00 am: At some point the security staff notices something isn’t right and that a female passenger had passed the checkpoint without undergoing security. The control center/supervisor of the security company informs the Aviation Safety Authority with details about what potentially happened. Video material is being analyzed which takes some time.
- 6:15 am: The aviation safety authority informs the German Federal Police (Bundespolizei) responsible for border security.
- 6:47 am: The Federal Police stops all flight operations. Terminal 2 plus the Satellite Terminal are being evacuated and searched for dangerous contraband.
- 4:48 pm: The Federal Police informs via Twitter that all sterile areas have been searched and declared safe, the airport operations resume.
According to another TZ article the woman had in the meanwhile reached her gate and left on her flight as scheduled – it took over one hour to stop ground operations. Safe journey!
As it was the beginning of the summer holiday, a total of 32,000 travelers were affected by this incident. The female passenger has in the meantime been identified and contacted, however a government spokesperson already said that the blame is entirely with the security company SGM where 3 individuals that were on duty that day have already been fired. The airport is currently investigating any possible liability claims, it’s expected that the damages go into several million Euros.
The Federal Police already stated that the security company acted grossly negligent as they didn’t sound the alarm immediately and rather took a very long time to initiate steps to inform the authorities. In the meanwhile the (thankfully harmless) offender was able to get on a flight and departed.
This is an epitome of incompetence on all levels. First security doesn’t watch the control lanes, a passenger goes through and it takes over an hour until something is effectively done. The passenger gets away yet 32,000 people are being inconvenienced and the terminal closed for pretty much the entire day.
Affected passengers can of course claim compensation from the operating airline based on EC261/2004, however at this point it will probably depend on how the liability is going to be resolved. I wouldn’t expect the airline to pay out any compensation as they’re likely going to cite force majeure. It’s possible though that Lufthansa and the airport are going after the security company for damages to cover expenses and passenger claims. It doesn’t hurt to put a claim in either way and then see how it progresses over time.