Many of us have avoided airports during the Covid-19 pandemic. While air travel is probably safer than most indoor environments, much of what you might do at a destination is off the table. And airports themselves generally lack HEPA air filtration, and there’s often too much congregation at security checkpoints and gate areas.
Which makes it such a strange choice, to me, that one man afraid of the novel coronavirus, decided to live at Chicago O’Hare for the past 3 months. The 36 year old California man has been arrested for criminal trespass.
In bond court Sunday, prosecutors said Singh arrived at O’Hare on a flight from Los Angeles on Oct. 19 and allegedly has lived in the airport’s security zone ever since, without detection.
Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz reacted incredulously Sunday after a prosecutor detailed the allegations.
“So if I understand you correctly,” Ortiz said, “you’re telling me that an unauthorized, nonemployee individual was allegedly living within a secure part of the O’Hare airport terminal from Oct. 19, 2020, to Jan. 16, 2021, and was not detected? I want to understand you correctly.”
United Airlines employees confronted the man, and he showed an airport ID he’d picked up months earlier. This didn’t fool anyone, and the man was arrested near Gate F12.
He has a Masters Degree in Hospitality, of course it’s not a great time for work in related industries. Other passengers gave him food.
People living in airports during the Covid-era – due to travel restrictions that prevented them from entering countries or going home – hasn’t been entirely uncommon and we’ve even seen people living in airport lounges unable to afford an airline change fee.
Probably the most famous person to live in an airport was Mehran Karimi Nasseri, because the Tom Hanks film The Terminal is loosely based on his story.
- The man spent 18 years living in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport’s terminal 1. He reported being kicked out of Iran for protesting the Shah, and eventually granted refugee status in Belgium. He moved to the UK, but lost his papers claiming his briefcase was stolen. When he returned to Britain border officials refused his entry, and sent him back on a flight to Paris where he had come from.
- Nasseri was offered residence in France and in Belgium, but wouldn’t sign papers agreeing to it because those listed him as being Iranian and he wanted to be a UK citizen where he says his father is from, and because he wanted the documents to reflect the name Sir Alfred Mehran.
Situations where people find themselves stuck in the airport aren’t common, but hardly unheard of. Three instances in the past decade include,
- A Taiwanese man spent more than a week living in the Perth, Australia airport after running out of money. He went to the airport, but his ticket was weeks away and he couldn’t afford change fees to depart earlier on Singapore Airlines low cost carrier Scoot.
- Ahmed Kannan spent four months in the Kuala Lumpur airport in 2013. He flew to Turkey without a visa and had his passport confiscated. He had been overstayed his Malaysian visa and was inadmissable there.
- Edward Snowden spent 39 days in the Moscow-Sheremetyevo airport before being granted temporary asylum. His U.S. passport had been revoked while enroute to Russia.