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How One Passenger Accidentally Stranded 20,000 Travelers

How One Passenger Accidentally Stranded 20,000 Travelers
Sharon Hsu

A bizarre security mishap at Munich Airport on Saturday caused the evacuation of two terminals and the cancellation of nearly an entire day’s schedule of flights, affecting 32,000 travelers and ultimately stranding 20,000 at the airport overnight. German officials are reviewing how this strange incident took place.

Munich Airport saw a chaotic scene on Saturday, July 28, when a female passenger unknowingly set off a chain of events that resulted in the entire airport shutting down for ten hours.

At security, the passenger’s carry-on luggage had been flagged as having excess liquids, so she was instructed to return it to the check-in counter. After checking the bag, she went back to the same security line as before. Though the checkpoint was now closed, the passenger walked through anyway, incorrectly assuming that she did not need to be checked again.

About 15 minutes later, at 6 AM, her actions were noticed by airport security as they reviewed surveillance tapes. The German Federal Police (Bundespolizei), who enforce border control, were notified, and the airport shut down all flight operations and began evacuating and searching two terminals at 6.45 AM.

Throughout the course of the day, over 330 flights into and out of Munich Airport were cancelled, affecting an estimated 32,000 passengers. The disruption was not merely contained to Munich either; Lufthansa’s second hub at Frankfurt Airport was significantly affected as well. Though the airport resumed operations around 5 PM, nearly 20,000 passengers were unable to be rebooked that day and ended up being stranded overnight.

The Federal Police and Lufthansa are placing the blame squarely on the airport’s third-party security firm, SGM, and three individuals on duty that day have been fired. Of further concern is how long it took for both SGM and Federal Police to review the tapes and to ground all flights after the incident occurred.

As for the original passenger? She was able to board her flight and take off in the meantime, completely unaware of the chaos she’d left in her wake.


[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

View Comments (7)


  1. makrom

    August 3, 2018 at 9:46 am

    Embarrassing for the security crew in charge, but what possible other outcome was there? An airside breach is an airside breach…

  2. viajero boricua

    August 3, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Watch out for the passenger’s “bill”… In EU airlines are more liable to charged known culprits of such incidents to recuperate costs

  3. DrunkCargo

    August 3, 2018 at 11:44 am

    I think FRA uses SGM as well? I’ve found their competence to be inconsistent.

  4. strickerj

    August 3, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    If a passenger is able to walk around a security checkpoint without realizing it (or being noticed), then it’s 100% the fault of the security protocol. For someone who has never flown before, coming right back from check-in and not needing to be screened again might seem like a reasonable procedure.

  5. stillontheroad

    August 4, 2018 at 7:41 am

    It only took her 15 minutes to go through the security checkpoint and then board her flight and push back from the gate? I did see that they security shut down and started evacuating the airport 45 minutes after the breach but 30 minutes to start the closing and evacuation seems like a long time

  6. chris19992


    August 5, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Nothing new for MUC. I know it’s not the same thing as this incident but there has been many times the schengen – non schengen checkpoint in T2 hasn’t been manned and people skip it, never seen it cause an evacuation though, thankfully

  7. cheaptom

    August 13, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    I just can’t imagine the stupidity/nerve/courage of someone who approaches an obviously closed and unmanned security checkpoint and just walks right through. Then again, if someone is stupid enough to sit in 5E when their real seat is 33K, then anything is possible.

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