The Frankfurt Upper Regional Court recently held that if passengers miss their flight as a result of having to wait a long time for a security check at an airport, they can claim compensation from the Federal Republic of Germany for the extra costs incurred for an alternative flight, provided that the passengers:

  • arrived at the check-in desk on time in accordance with the recommendations by the airport; and
  • proceeded from the check-in desk to the security check point without further delay.(1)


The plaintiffs claimed compensation from the defendant (the Federal Republic of Germany) because of a missed flight. The defendant organised security checks at Frankfurt Airport.

The plaintiffs wanted to fly from Frankfurt, Germany, to the Dominican Republic. The departure time of their flight was 11:50am, boarding opened at 10:50am and the gate closed at 11:30am. The plaintiffs passed the security check too late: boarding had already been completed when they reached the gate.

The plaintiffs thus claimed compensation for the costs incurred for the alternative flight tickets, as well as an overnight stay. In this regard, the plaintiffs claimed that the security check had not been organised sufficiently and that the waiting period had been unreasonably long.

At first instance, the Frankfurt Regional Court held that the defendant had to pay compensation to the plaintiffs.(2) The defendant appealed the decision, but without success.


The Frankfurt Upper Regional Court held, on appeal, that the defendant had violated no official duties with regard to the organisation of the security check. In particular, it had not employed too few staff to carry out security checks.

However, the Court held that the plaintiffs had a claim for damages pursuant to the principle of sacrificial claims, or rather, expropriating intervention. Such a claim is possible if a lawful measure has a direct effect on the legal position of the owner and leads to a special sacrifice, which exceeds the threshold of the legally reasonable.

In the case at hand, the waiting time at the luggage and people control led to the plaintiffs missing their flight. Generally, passengers must prepare for such controls and factor in the time they take, which can be considerable. However, the Court emphasised that passengers need not prepare for any specific length of time, but should comply with the recommendations of the airport operator or the requirements of the airline.

In this case, the plaintiffs had arrived on time. According to the recommendations of Frankfurt Airport for international flights, they should have been at the check-in desk two hours before take-off. The plaintiffs had passed the check-in point at 9:00am. From there, they had moved to the security checkpoint after the gate had been announced and had joined the queue at 10:00am at the latest. At 10:00am, there had been 90 minutes remaining until boarding. The Court was unaware of any factors that would indicate that this period of time would be insufficient.

The plaintiffs could also not be accused of remaining at the check-in desk for too long. The footpath was manageable in 15 minutes. The gate had not been printed on the boarding cards and had not been displayed on the airport panels at 9:00am. It thus could not be established that the plaintiffs had wasted their time after checking in.

The decision cannot be appealed.


This case is interesting as it gives passengers a potential claim against the Federal Republic of Germany if they miss their flight because of long waiting times at the security checkpoint, provided that they arrived punctually to check in, in line with the time recommendations by the relevant airport and airline.

In this regard, it is notable that the Court previously denied a damages claim in a similar case, where a passenger had missed a flight because of a hand luggage check. In that case, the passenger had arrived only 55 minutes before take-off and, at most, 40 minutes before boarding at the security checkpoint.(3)

For further information on this topic please contact Katharina Bressler at Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein by email ([email protected]). The Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein website can be accessed at


(1) Frankfurt Upper Regional Court, judgment dated 27 January 2022, Ref 1 U 220/20.

(2) Frankfurt Regional Court, judgment dated 5 August 2020, Ref 2/4 O 405/19.

(3) Frankfurt Upper Regional Court, judgment dated 19 January 2017, Ref 1 U 139/15.