March 26, 2024 | Susan Napier-Sewell

What does a bad day look like? Craziness on the runway

A Moroccan national was arrested on December 1, 2021, at Frankfurt airport after he managed to make his way onto a runway of the facility. Due to the event, air traffic for the runway was temporarily suspended, forcing one flight to perform a go-around. The individual in question was apprehended and deported the next day.

Before the runway: access via bus transfer

According to Germany’s Bundespolizei (Germany’s federal police), a 31-year-old Moroccan national managed to gain access to the apron of Frankfurt airport on December 1, 2021. This was apparently achieved by the man sneaking away from a bus shuttling passengers toward the B gates. Police noted that the man initially crept onto the airport apron undetected but was eventually discovered by a Bundespolizei patrol crew.

Attempting to evade police, the man then fled toward the runway. Along with police, an airport “follow-me car” pursued the individual.

Deutsche Flugsicherung, the firm in charge of air traffic control in Germany, was notified by security forces of the event. As a result, take-off and landing clearance for the affected runway was suspended between 9:07 and 9:18 local time. Indeed, a Ryanair Boeing 737 approaching the runway was forced to perform a go-around. Flight FR6045 from Malaga to Frankfurt was on final approach at 1,900 ft. when it was instructed to go around at 9:10. It eventually touched down 20 minutes later at 09:30.


Who and why?

Citing “dangerous interference in air traffic and attempted unauthorized entry,” police reported that the 31-year-old Moroccan was detained and an investigation conducted into his actions.

The man, a photographer living in the United Arab Emirates, told police that he wanted to visit his wife in the Netherlands. However, without having an appropriate visa for his intended trip, he felt forced to enter ‘undetected’ instead.

A possible case of skiplagging?

Interestingly, the individual lacked a visa for entering the EU. It is indeed standard for airlines and their staff to check that all passengers have proper documentation and clearance for their final destination, whether at the check-in desk or at the gate. This is something that would have been checked in Dubai in this instance.

However, Wednesday’s incident may have been a case of “skiplagging,” the practice of booking an itinerary where the stopover is the true and intended destination of the traveler. Often used to secure lower airfares, it’s conceivable that the practice would be used for unauthorized entry into a country.

In this case, we could imagine that the individual could have booked a Lufthansa flight from Dubai to a country where his passport would gain him visa-free entry. Tunis would be one example as the airline currently does not operate service to Morocco. While Airport Transit Schengen visas are required for certain nationalities, Morocco is not on any such list.

Source: Simple Flying, “Crazy: Police Arrest Man Near Frankfurt Runway After Go-Around,” by Chris Loh, December 3, 2021.

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What Does a Bad Day Look Like?
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