An airport tarmac standoff with an armed man and a child passenger has forced the full closure of Hamburg Airport in Germany, causing flight cancellations and evacuations.
The tense incident began around 8:30pm local time Saturday when a man drove a vehicle through a gate onto the tarmac and parked it dangerously close to a jetliner. Witnesses say he fired at least one gunshot into the air before barricading himself inside the car with a child.
Police have surrounded the vehicle and attempted to make contact, believing the situation relates to a custody dispute. The standoff continued through the night, now exceeding 10 hours with no resolution as of early Sunday morning.
This unprecedented security breach has grounded all flights in or out of Germany’s second busiest airport behind Frankfurt. 27 flights carrying approximately 3,200 passengers have been cancelled so far according to airport spokesperson Katja Bromm.
Passengers on the plane nearest the suspect’s vehicle were evacuated first and taken to a nearby hotel along with travelers from other aircraft. Dramatic social media video shows armed police escorting frightened groups across the airfield to waiting buses during the emergency evacuation.
“We saw armed police running across the field next to our plane,” said Vienna resident Alina Tuider, 32, who was on an outbound flight when it halted suddenly prior to takeoff after 8pm. “So we knew there was something going on.”
Tuider heard what she believed was a gunshot before learning about the situation from news reports on her phone. After waiting on the grounded plane for around an hour, police finally evacuated all passengers close to midnight.
Authorities have made contact with the armed man but he remains barricaded with the child. The suspect allegedly drove through a security gate unchecked, calling into question potential lapses in protocol. However, police have declined to confirm whether he bypassed guards completely.
Hamburg police spokesperson Sandra Levgrün said via social media that no injuries have been reported so far. But two small fires were spotted on the tarmac, whose origins remain under investigation.
This bizarre and unprecedented standoff continues to halt all traffic at one of Germany’s busiest airports at the start of a busy holiday travel season. Check back for further updates on this developing story as authorities try to de-escalate the volatile situation without harm.
How The Tarmac Crisis Unfolded
8:24pm — Police receive alert about an unauthorized vehicle on the tarmac
8:30pm — The armed suspect parks his car dangerously close to a jetliner with a child inside
8:33pm — After firing a warning shot into the air, the man barricades inside the car, refusing to communicate
9:37pm — Hamburg Airport closes runways and suspends all flights in or out
10:14pm — Passengers on planes near the vehicle begin emergency evacuation
11:02pm — Other travelers slowly evacuated from grounded planes over the next few hours
12:15am — Police confirm that 27 flights and 3,200 passengers impacted so far
1:57am — Travelers evacuated to nearby hotels to shelter overnight
2:33am — Small fires spotted on airfield but cause unconfirmed
5:51am — Airport closure continues as standoff hits 10+ hours
The Motive Behind the Tarmac Crisis
Authorities believe the airport shutdown relates to a custody dispute based on the presence of the suspect’s child inside the vehicle. But so far, police have not been able to establish communication with the unidentified man.
Hamburg police spokesperson Sandra Levgrün confirmed via social media that the man had fired at least one warning shot after driving through a security gate onto the tarmac around 8:30pm Saturday evening.
It remains unclear whether the armed individual drove past security checkpoints or took advantage of a lapse in protocol. But the ability to breech airport security so brazenly has raised serious concerns.
Two small fires were seen on the airfield but authorities have not confirmed the arsonist. However, the suspect remains the prime suspect for now.
No injuries have been reported so far during the ongoing standoff. But the harrowing situation has completely shutdown Germany’s second busiest airport on one of the busiest travel weekends ahead of the holidays.
How Hamburg Airport is Handling the Crisis
The airport first received a warning about the unauthorized vehicle at 8:24pm Saturday. Runways were quickly shut down and flights grounded by 8:37pm.
The closed runways forced 27 flights carrying around 3,200 passengers to cancel by midnight. Ambulances and police vehicles flooded the airfield as a tense standoff unfolded.
The passengers on the plane nearest the suspect’s car were evacuated first. Police escorted travelers across the tarmac to waiting buses during the emergency evacuation seen widely on social media.
Other travelers were slowly evacuated from grounded planes over the next few hours as the situation remained unresolved. Airport staff provided updates to passengers as police attempted to make contact with the barricaded suspect.
Evacuated passengers have been sheltered overnight at nearby hotels. But the airport closure remains in effect Sunday morning, now exceeding 10 hours.
Hamburg Airport is responsible for 61,000 aircraft movements and 17 million passengers annually. It is the fifth largest airport in Germany and home base for Eurowings and Condor airlines.
The unprecedented shutdown during a peak holiday travel season has impacted thousands of flyers. And it continues to disrupt air traffic as authorities remain in a standoff with the armed man.
Passenger Eyewitness Accounts
Many travelers only realized something was wrong when their planes halted suddenly on the runway and failed to takeoff. Vienna resident Alina Tuider, 32, spoke about her experience:
“We saw armed police running across the field next to our plane. So we knew there was something going on. At one point, I thought I heard a gunshot before learning about the situation from news on my phone.”
After waiting for an hour, police finally evacuated Tuider’s flight close to midnight. She described an orderly but tense atmosphere.
Other passengers said they saw emergency vehicles speeding across the airfield through their windows. Some worried a terrorist incident had occurred before learning about the custody dispute.
Traveler Judith Meester tweeted about the moment police boarded her plane:
“So our plane just got stormed by police…we were waiting to depart when they drove up to the plane and surrounded it with machine guns!”
Sarah Muller, age 26, described the alarm when her flight crew failed to provide updates:
“We were just sitting on the plane waiting to take off when the pilot said we had to evacuate. Everything happened so fast it was terrifying. I’m still shaking.”
Authorities Continue Attempts to Peacefully Resolve Tarmac Standoff
Entering the 10th hour, Hamburg police have been unable to establish contact with the unidentified man. He continues to sit barricaded inside the vehicle on the tarmac with the child.
Though no injuries have occurred, concerns remain high due to the presence of a firearm and potential arson. The suspect allegedly managed to breach airport security by driving through a gate onto the runway.
Two small fires of unconfirmed origin were spotted burning on the airfield overnight. Authorities remain on high alert for additional erratic or violent behavior.
Hamburg Airport apologizes for the major inconvenience but stresses that passenger safety is the highest priority. All flights will remain suspended until the dangerous standoff ends peacefully.
Travelers should check with their airline for updates on flight status. Traffic disrupted by this incident is likely to cause delays and cancellations beyond when the airport reopens.
This Developing Story Continues — Check Back for Updates
The bizarre and unprecedented standoff continues to unfold at Hamburg Airport after exceeding 10 hours overnight. Authorities are attempting to peacefully resolve the situation caused by an armed man barricaded in a vehicle on the tarmac.
All flights remain cancelled as runways stay closed Sunday morning. Thousands of passengers have been evacuated and forced to make alternate travel plans.
Check back on this page for additional details as the story continues to develop. Can police successfully negotiate a non-violent end to the standoff that has crippled Germany’s second largest airport?