Evacuations and lockdowns: how Germany’s top hubs handle breaches
When it comes to airport security in Germany, there are no risks taken and no precautions spared, even if it affects hundreds of flights and thousands of passengers. From luggage mistaken for a bomb to security check slip-ups, the federal police are compelled to evacuate and search an area of an airport, no questions asked. Here are the latest incidents that made headlines in the media, and they are only a couple of the many officially reported.
On August 7, 2018, the German federal police shut down and evacuated parts of the Frankfurt Airport (FRA) after someone got past security into the boarding areas unchecked. Federal police was prompted to stop boarding at Terminal 1 and evacuate the security areas at two piers following the security alert.
„After several persons passed through the security area without being controlled, the German Federal Police ordered a boarding stop in the security areas A and Z of Terminal 1 as well as an evacuation of these areas. The areas B and C of the terminal were not affected. After about two and a half hours, at 2:30 p.m. the stop was lifted,” an official statement from Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) said.
Initially, police spokeswoman Julia Thiel said they believed that a person with a child passed through the security area. Later, it was discovered that they were, in fact, a French family of four, who managed to get past security despite a positive test for explosives.
The police believe one member of the family did not fully complete the security check. After being questioned, the family was allowed to travel on. The blame for the breach was put on a security officer who made “an error” and triggered the alert.
Meanwhile, passengers at Frankfurt airport described scenes of “confusion” as they were evacuated from the terminal. Many complained of long queues and lack of information. Two hours later the alert was lifted and the terminal went back into operation.
Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) , which has its main hub at Frankfurt, issued an official statement, saying that around 7,000 of the airline’s passengers, traveling to and from the airport, would be affected by flight cancellations due to the incident.
The carrier said it was „doing everything” to lessen the impact of police measures to minimize the unavoidable impact of the police measures on its passengers“, pointing out that flight delays and cancellations „may occur” throughout the day and into the evening hours.
The airline also added that, “some flights had to leave Frankfurt without transporting passengers in order to reposition aircraft and crews at departure airports outside of Frankfurt as quickly as possible to stabilize the flight schedule”.
Frankfurt Airport, located in what is considered as the country‘s financial capital, is by far the largest in Germany: 64.5 million passengers passed through the hub in 2017. On the day of the security breach, 1,500 flights were scheduled to take off and land at the hub, according to operator Fraport.
A couple of weeks earlier, on July 28, 2018, a security breach at Munich Airport (MUC) also led to federal police closing off one of the terminals there. Authorities were notified that someone slipped through one of the security checkpoints with a bag containing liquid.
According to a spokesman for the Munich police, an unidentified woman entered the security area of Terminal 2 of the airport “in an uncontrolled manner“, and, as a result, “extensive manhunt investigations” were initiated. Police had to clear the area in search of the passenger, evacuating the entire Terminal 2 including departure lounges and its satellite terminal.
Apparently, the passenger in question was going through security when the officers there noticed a liquid in her cosmetics bag. Having checked her bag in, the woman came back and passed through the same security point without undergoing a body check.
By the time officers realized their slip-up and the alarm was raised, the woman had already been on board her plane.
Flights remained grounded for seven hours, while authorities searched for the woman and questioned her, leading to 330 cancellations that affected at least 32,000 passengers. Cancellations and serious delays continued into the afternoon of the following day.
Security issue at #Munich airport, all passengers are sent out from terminal 2. Our pilot from Helsinki told one person has gone inside the terminal without the security check. Officials try to find this person now. Oh boy! pic.twitter.com/s96j59FmCR— Paula Vilén (@vilenpaula) July 28, 2018
A spokesman for the Munich airport reportedly said flights by Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) and its partner airlines, as well as those carriers belonging to Star Alliance, were the worst hit by the disruptions as they fly exclusively from Terminal 2.
And much like the one in Frankfurt, this incident was blamed on the security team, for not realizing their mistake before the woman disappeared.
On July 30, the state government in Bavaria, the region where Munich is located, announced that it had suspended three members of the state-owned security company which handles airport security, pending an investigation into the slip-up.
Munich Airport (MUC) is the second largest in Germany: 44.6 million passengers passed through the hub in 2017. According to the Munich airport chief, the consequences of security breach could cost the hub over $1.2 million (€1 million).
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