By Bolaji Ojo
Data has become a plague.
It is deadly if ignored or misapplied but the processing has also become a nightmare because of the volume and communication crossed wires. In effect, we are locked into a “superblocked” information highway.
For the airline industry, security agencies, enterprises and governments, this is a problem that requires urgent and creative solutions.
Alas, based on my recent experience with Lufthansa Airlines and the German police, I fear we may only realize the enormity of the loopholes in our information gathering and processing system only if they result in a security crisis.
Before I dive into the update on my recent experience with Lufthansa (See: I Became the News, No Thanks to Lufthansa) – let me quickly address the issue of self-reporting by enterprises and economic sectors to regulators and security agencies. Does anyone remember AV developer Cruise’s recent debacle? (See: Cruise’s Survival Hangs in The Balance.)
Unlike the automotive sector, airlines and aircraft makers are amongst the most heavily regulated enterprises in the global economy. Self-reporting, though, lives on in the aviation market, shrouded by laws that seemed to forbid it, but which entangles flyers in such a stupor-inducing maze that many aggrieved passengers just move on, satisfying themselves with token compensations, fare refunds and silent screams on social media channels.
That was my choice when Lufthansa this year on September 17 hauled me off a flight leaving Lagos for Frankfurt. The ground crew who asked me to get off the aircraft moments before departure offered no explanations, no accommodations and no rebooking. They disappeared, as quickly as the flight that was supposed to take me on the first leg of my return home.
Lufthansa Twilight Zone
Two months later, Lufthansa is still in the twilight zone. Its customer service rep told me recently that the airline was not aware I had been “deboarded” in Lagos.
But I was not on the flight!
I recorded the following video post at the airport after the aircraft left Lagos. The video was posted to LinkedIn that night and recently reposted to YouTube.
A Security Question for the German Police
On returning to Europe, I decided to get the German police involved after a respondent to my LinkedIn post noted: “This is a serious security breach not a simple customer complaint.”
Here is the curious twist. The Frankfurt Airport police, a branch of the German security system, saw nothing wrong. An investigation would start only if Lufthansa filed a report, they said.
An investigator with the police informed me via email that Lufthansa did not report to them that I was not on the plane. An investigation could only start if Lufthansa had filed a report, he noted.
“After my research, I would like to inform you that the Federal Police Directorate at Frankfurt am Main Airport has no knowledge of your facts,” the spokesperson said, in an email.
But the airline could not have filed a report because it was not even aware of my plight.
Pointing this out to the Frankfurt Airport police was pointless, it seemed. I persisted, though, asking the following questions:
Are you not concerned a serious security breach had taken place; What if someone pretending to be the real passenger had been smuggled onto the plane without the knowledge of the flight crew; What if the ground staff in Lagos were up to some shenanigans hidden to Lufthansa, exposing the passengers, the crew, other travelers, and the German public to dangers?
The police response follows:
When I said that the Federal Police Directorate at Frankfurt Airport had no knowledge of your facts, I meant that the Federal Police Directorate at Frankfurt Airport was not informed by Lufthansa that you were not allowed to fly. Nor do my colleagues who are on duty in Lagos know why you were not allowed to fly. If there is a suspicion on the part of a traveler regarding the travel document, the Federal Police colleague deployed on site will be informed. This was not the case in your case.
No Airline complaint, no problem?
That explains everything then. Lufthansa didn’t complain so no breach of security occurred. I should be relieved, right?
The logic, though, defies comprehension.
I know I was taken off the flight by Lufthansa. So, why is Lufthansa not aware of the action of its ground crew? Via their App, Lufthansa welcomed me to Frankfurt the next day even though I was not on the flight. Did someone else take my place? Was I tricked off the plane so someone else could take my seat? If this was what happened, who replaced me?
Meanwhile, I have asked Lufthansa for a refund. It is being processed.
If I get a refund, that will mean Lufthansa had finally agreed that I was taken off the flight. Will they self-report to the German police?
If I do not get a refund, that would mean Lufthansa is convinced I was on a flight that I didn’t take.
How do you process this data mix-up?
Bolaji Ojo is managing editor and publisher of the Ojo-Yoshida Report. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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