Man lived at O’Hare for 3 months, claims he was scared of the coronavirus

Jan 18, 2021

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Instead of sheltering in place, one man decided to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus by hiding out at one of the world’s busiest airports for three months.

Aditya Singh, a 36-year-old from a Los Angeles suburb, said he was “scared to go home due to [COVID-19]” the Chicago Tribune reported on Sunday.

Prosecutors said Singh flew to Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) from Los Angeles (LAX) on Oct. 19 and managed to live undetected in a secure section of the airport until Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, when he was caught.

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Judge Susana Ortiz, of Cook County, Illinois, responded to the allegations “incredulously,” according to the Tribune.

“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 … and was not detected? I want to understand you correctly.”

On Saturday, two United Airlines employees asked to see Singh’s identification. He was wearing the badge of an airport operations manager who had reported it missing on Oct. 26. Police took Singh into custody at Terminal 2 near Gate F12 before noon.

Singh, who has a master’s degree in hospitality but is currently unemployed, claims he found the badge, and said other travelers gave him food. He is charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area and misdemeanor theft. As a condition of his $1,000 bail, Singh is prohibited from stepping foot in O’Hare.

“The court finds these facts and circumstances quite shocking for the alleged period of time that this occurred,” Ortiz said. “Being in a secured part of the airport under a fake ID badge allegedly, based upon the need for airports to be absolutely secure so that people feel safe to travel, I do find those alleged actions do make him a danger to the community.”

Airports are many things, but I’m not sure they’re really the best place to avoid contracting a highly contagious virus. Even the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which in October said the chance of getting COVID-19 on a plane was less than getting struck by lightning, admitted there’s risk elsewhere in the travel process, such as at the airport. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends avoiding crowds during the ongoing pandemic, and ORD saw 2,331,635 passengers during the month of September alone.

It also stands to reason that Singh did not have a credit card that gave him lounge access. Otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have been scrounging around for scraps from Auntie Anne’s.

Singh’s extended layover may bring to mind “The Terminal,” Steven Spielberg’s comedy-drama about a man who spends nine months at New York-JFK — which was inspired by the true story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) for nearly two decades.

But Singh’s three-month-long stay is concerning, considering how secure airports are supposed to be. I can’t even get a bottle of water through security, but somehow this man decided that instead of booking a vacation home he’d overnight between a Hudson News and a Skybridge Bar & Grill.

“While this incident remains under investigation,” the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) said in a statement, “CDA has no higher priority than the safety and security of our airports, which is maintained by a coordinated and multilayered law enforcement network. We have been able to determine that this gentleman did not pose a security risk to the airport or to the traveling public. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners on a thorough investigation of this matter.”

Feature photo by aoldman / Getty Images.

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