Unauthorized Operations Land Lufthansa $6.4M FAA Fine

The Federal Aviation Authority is proposing to fine Lufthansa over 6 million US Dollars. The FAA accuses Lufthansa of knowingly flying to both San Diego and Philadelphia without permission, for over a year in the case of San Diego.

Lufthansa, FAA, Operations Violation
The FAA has accused Lufthansa of almost 900 aircraft operations without permission. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

As the flag carrier of Germany, and a founder of the Star Alliance, Lufthansa has an impressive global network. However, it seems as though it may have pushed this global network too far, as the FAA is accusing the carrier of flying without authorization to two destinations in the United States. To remedy the situation, the FAA is proposing a multi-million dollar fine. Lufthansa has 30 days to respond to the FAA’s suggestion.

What happened?

The FAA issues each foreign carrier with an operations specification. This operations specification shows the airports within the United States which a foreign carrier is permitted to operate services to and from.


In the case of Lufthansa, the FAA is alleging that, for a period of time within the past year, Lufthansa was not authorized to fly to San Diego or Philadelphia by its operations specification. According to the FAA, violations at San Diego were worse than at Philadelphia.

Lufthansa, FAA, Operations Violation
The San Diego operations took place with Airbus A340 aircraft. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

The Federal Aviation Administration accused Lufthansa of operating to San Deigo in breach of its operations specification for a period of 431 days from March 22nd 2018 to May 27th 2019. During this period of time, Lufthansa is alleged to have flown an Airbus A340 between Frankfurt and San Diego approximately 300 times in each direction.

The accusations towards Lufthansa with respect to Philadelphia only relates to a period of 164 days. This time frame lasted from 28th of October 2018 until 10th of April 2019. Within this time frame, Lufthansa is alleged to have flown between Frankfurt and Philadelphia around 146 times in each direction.

Lufthansa, FAA, Operations Violation
The alleged Philadelphia violations were committed with Boeing 747 and Airbus A330 aircraft. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

What does Lufthansa say?

Simple Flying reached out to Lufthansa regarding the FAA’s allegations. A spokesperson told Simple Flying:

“Lufthansa is fully cooperating with the FAA on this matter and will be addressing the regulatory issues involved with the Agency. Lufthansa is globally committed to compliance with all laws and regulations. There are no allegations raised by the FAA that the security or safety of any flights was compromised in any respect. The safety and security of our passengers remain the highest priority of the Lufthansa Group.”

As a result of the almost 900 flights which were alleged to have occurred outside of the airline’s operations specification, the FAA has suggested a fine. The exact figure of the fine proposed stands at $6,428,000. The main issue appears to be that the FAA believes that Lufthansa knew it was breaching its operations specification.

Do you think Lufthansa deserves to be finned? Is the fine too lenient, too harsh, or just right? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


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For a company as big as the Lufthansa Group $ 6 million is pocket change.


Exactly, they have made all the money they need out of that route.. 6 mill is nothing


This sounds like someone at Lufthansa dropped the ball when it comes to paperwork. Since Lufthansa already has access to other US airports, a VP presumed no additional paper was needed. Lufthansa has egg on its face!! The fine will be mitigated down, but Lufthansa has now put itself on the FAA’s radar scope and any future infractions will be scrutinized in detail. OUCH!!!


I suggest that FAA have a good look on the bul…..sh… produced with MAX and MCAS acceptance give us right answers then talk about stupid traffic rights in Phil and Diego big deal!!!


My concern is that the FAA didn’t have a system in place that would have alerted all concerned on the first day of the violation; or a month later. The failure to regulate is squarely the FAA’s failure. If Lufthansa dropped the ball, the appropriate reprimand is a route suspension for a day or two.


Just curious how lufthansa managed to supposedly operate flights “illegaly” in some of the most protected skies in the world right under the noses of the FAA for so long without a mention? How does it take over a year to spot a problem? If that is really the case does this not point to a more worrying sign that the FAA is inept, given they managed to let Boeing certify their own aircraft to the shame and detriment of both parties?


Yeah, each flight has a flight plan. There’s definitely blame on the FAA side as well.


How was LH able to file flight plans and get slots without the permission of the FAA? If LH dropped the ball by not applying properly, than the FAA dropped the ball by not checking before granting traffic rights, flight plans, etc.

LH might have to pay some lesser fine, however the FAA needs to be investigated for its failure too.

Tim Kyle

The airport authorities in both Philadelphia and San Diego both have culpability as well. How could you not know who’s authorized to fly into your airport? Someone definitely dropped the ball on this one.

George Blackwood

What is the fuss all about? Lufthansa will have been charged the necessary airport and landing/take off charges. Who is out of pocket? Punitive fi es for what? Operating outside an agreement. If the FAA were awake they should have picked this up after the first “illegal” landing in either of the two cities. Flight plans have to be filed/submitted before each flight. Why did the civil aviation authorities not pick it up then. Perhaps this is just to cover up their own inefficiency.