In 2018, my wife and I (both American citizens on US passports) flew Chicago O'Hare (ORD) to Frankfurt (FRA) to London Heathrow (LHR) with only carry-on luggage (no checked bags).

When we arrived (late) in FRA, we rushed to follow the signs to get to our next flight and ended up going through security where I was delayed. We barely made our flight to London. It's been a couple of years, so I don't remember exact details, but I'm reasonably certain we did not change terminals in FRA.

Did we miss a sign somewhere that would have allowed us to stay air-side and avoid going through security again?

  • 7
    I cannot remember Frankfurt but, in some airports, you need to go through security even if you stay airside.
    – badjohn
    Commented Mar 18 at 17:48
  • And it might be difficult today from back then.
    – Willeke
    Commented Mar 18 at 18:03
  • You didn’t clear Immigration, so you did stay airside. Related question travel.stackexchange.com/questions/180040/…
    – Traveller
    Commented Mar 18 at 22:26
  • For what its worth, I had the same experience going US => Schengen in 2017. Ended up at an understaffed security point at the bottom of an escalator. Huge line, and more and more people came down the escalator. My impression was very much that I've missed a sign somewhere, or a sign had been ambiguous, or even missing. SIgns at FRA are like that. Commented Mar 26 at 14:35

2 Answers 2


Whether you go through security or not depends on whether the local authorities "trust" the authorities of the origin airport to have done a good job or not (same rules, good testing, etc.).

If they trust them, then it's possible you could be able to get to your gate directly without going through security (provided the airport is designed for this, for your specific combination of flights -- some airport do not allow it at all, others will not allow it if you have to change terminals, and so on).

If they don't (which is the most frequent case I believe), then you will go through security before being allowed into the departures area.

Note that in this case, you usually (but not always) end up at a different security checkpoint used only for connecting passengers, not the main checkpoint used by all departing passengers. It typically means shorter queues, but not always.

Which countries trust which others is an ever changing situation. It's sometimes even more specific that just country pairs (IIRC there's an airport somewhere which trusts some flights from Japan but not all -- don't ask me why!).

In your case, if you had actually left the airside you would have gone through passport control twice (entering Germany and leaving it again), which I suppose you would remember, so you likely went through the connections security.

Glad to hear you got to your gate on time (even if barely). Note that when connections are tight there is often staff on hand at your arrival gate to escort you and possibly make you jump queues. You should also not hesitate to approach staff on your first flight if your connection is tight and/or the flight is late, they will be able to communicate with ground staff and let you know what to do (in some cases the airline will just decide upfront that you won't make it and rebook you on the next flight).

In any case, if the two flights are on the same ticket (not bought separately), then if you miss your connecting flights because of delays they will rebook you. On busy routes that means a delay of a few hours at most.

  • Thanks. The lines were fairly short, it did not in the least look like "main" security, and we definitely did not go through any passport control, so I'm guessing it was a secondary, connections security. Had we missed the flight, Lufthansa would have gotten us to LHR, but we might have missed the self-connection to MAD, which would have, ironically, made me mad. :)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 18 at 18:06
  • Also, considering that during my conversation with the security agent (who said my bag tested positive for explosives), he said that security in ORD must be lax, I guess German security doesn't quite trust American security... I also had a very nice conversation with the Polizei. They were all very nice, just painfully slow. My wife ran ahead to the gate and they did hold the flight for me.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 18 at 18:10
  • Something must have gone wrong there. I have arrived in FRA from the US dozens of times and NEVER had to go through connecting security,
    – Hilmar
    Commented Mar 18 at 19:42
  • 1
    @jcaron I read it again and now it makes sense to me... the "not" is mentioned earlier in the sentence :-) Commented Mar 18 at 20:18
  • 2
    Frankfurt (at least in Terminal 2, which British Airways uses), has security check points for each cluster (~4) of gates, there is literally no way to get to these gates from anywhere without going through security again. Terminal 1 is different. It's also a continuous building site and you might have just been diverted. Commented Mar 19 at 12:07

I did such a transfer in FRA, and yeah, you have to pass through security if you are transferring to another flight. You probably stayed airside - did you pass through Immigration (passport control), then the luggage pickup hall, and Customs (ie luggage inspection)? And then did you pass through Immigration (passport control) again? I don't think so.

In some airports, like FRA, BKK, or HKG, you stay airside, but have to pass through security screening before being allowed to proceed further. This is what makes transfers in such airports a little more painful, and lenghtier...

  • Also in Dubai though it is usually quite quick.
    – badjohn
    Commented Mar 19 at 10:06
  • That's really odd: I've done dozens of flights from the US to FRA on 10+ different airlines (and different alliances) and never had to clear security. As far as I know FRA connection security is based on where you come from and inbounds from the US are exempted (while most Asian countries are not). But apparently that's 100% the case.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Mar 19 at 11:55

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