Lost Spanish tourist triggers security red alert at Cologne Airport

© Wolfgang Rattay
The man who caused part of Cologne Bonn Airport to be shut down after entering a restricted area turned out to be a lost Spanish tourist, police confirmed. His actions led to the departures level in Terminal 1 being evacuated as a safety precaution.

A press release from the airport said a man had managed to get into the departures area after entering the zone through the hand baggage exit in Terminal 1. However, the man, described as wearing red trousers, a pink shirt and having a bald patch, was spotted by security officials, who then detained him.

The man turned out to be a 62-year-old Spanish tourist, who said he was looking for the fastest way to catch his flight to the Portuguese resort of Faro, a police spokeswoman said, as cited by Focus Online. 

"He just picked the wrong route," she said. 

The incident affected around 2,500 passengers according to the press release, while flights were delayed rather than canceled.

All aircraft were forced to return to the terminals as a safety precaution, while the departures area of Terminal 1 was completely cleared, and everyone had to pass through security again. 

Police allowed operations at Terminal 1 to return to normal at 13:30 local time, some two and a half hours after the incident took place. Terminal 2 and the transport hub were not affected.

This latest incident will come as further embarrassment to the airport, after it accidently published plans on the internet in April of how it would combat a possible terrorist emergency.

The 230-page document gave a comprehensive plan for how to react in case of a whole range of emergencies, from natural disasters to kidnappings or terrorist attacks. The phone numbers and contact details of key security personnel were also published online.

However, unbeknown to the authorities, their best-laid plans were available for any potential terrorists to see on the internet. The documents would also provide them with invaluable information such as potential escape routes. 

The mishap came months after a report by the German television station WDR, which revealed that Cologne-Bonn Airport’s security system failed to detect dangerous items in carry-on luggage. 

EU inspectors carried out tests at the airport in February and tried to smuggle weapons and bomb-making equipment through security. Alarmingly, these objects were only detected six out of 12 times by the security staff manning the x-ray machines. 

When staff were given an advanced warning that dangerous items could be carried through security, the detection rate actually worsened, with nine out of 12 dangerous items managing to get through unnoticed. 

The revelations are likely to reignite a debate in Germany concerning who should be responsible for securing the country’s transport hubs, with more criticism being poured on the private sector. 

"Too much attention is paid to speed and reducing costs – and much too little to security," Police Union representative Ernst Walter told WDR.