As the global pandemic ground many aspects of life to a standstill, millions of people still managed to fly around the country, including more than 29 million on U.S. airlines in October alone.
Among those passengers was Aditya Singh. But on Oct. 19, he did what few passengers had ever done: He walked off his aircraft, entered an airport and simply never left.
Mr. Singh, 36, of Orange County, Calif., who managed to avoid detection for three months at O’Hare International Airport, was arrested on Saturday and charged with impersonation in a restricted area of the airport and theft of less than $500, said the Chicago police public information officer Karie James.
Mr. Singh appeared in court on Sunday, when his bond was set at $10,000. He remained at the Cook County jail on Tuesday, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Mr. Singh, who had flown from Los Angeles to O’Hare, one of the country’s largest airports, somehow managed to not be noticed as he roamed endlessly inside a network of walkways, waiting areas, restrooms and eateries that countless other passengers, pilots and employees pass through every day on their way to somewhere else.
When two United Airlines employees approached Mr. Singh on Saturday and asked for identification, he showed them an airport ID badge that belonged to an airport operations manager and had been reported missing in October, according to The Chicago Tribune, which reported the arrest on Sunday. The employees then called 911 and the police took Mr. Singh into custody just after 11 a.m. that day.
A prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said that Mr. Singh said he was “scared to go home due to Covid,” The Tribune reported.
In a statement, the Chicago Department of Aviation said it “has no higher priority than the safety and security of our airports, which is maintained by a coordinated and multilayered law enforcement network.” The agency added that the case remained under investigation and that Mr. Singh “did not pose a security risk to the airport or to the traveling public.”
An airport official with knowledge of the episode said there was no indication Mr. Singh left a secure side of the airport. This person also said the airport did not have a written policy stating the length of time after which a ticketed passenger must leave the airport.
“Being that Mr. Singh’s case is pending, we will not be commenting on his case at this time,” said Courtney Smallwood, an assistant public defender with the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, which is representing Mr. Singh. Another public defender, Connie Jordan, said the office would not make Mr. Singh available for an interview.
It was not immediately clear what may have drawn Mr. Singh to Chicago or whether he had ties to the area.
According to Mr. Singh’s Facebook page, he is from New Delhi and lives in Orange, Calif.
His LinkedIn profile states that he is self-employed and works as a director at Bubby LLC providing social media, video production and digital marketing for Bubby Bear, a stuffed toy that travels with a yellow duck friend. The bear has a YouTube channel that features Mr. Singh at community events including a race last February in Anaheim, Calif.
In the fall of 2018 Mr. Singh began a master’s degree program for hospitality administration at Oklahoma State University, a spokeswoman confirmed. He graduated in the summer of 2019, she said.
According to a university website, Mr. Singh has a degree in economics from the University of London, with a research focus in reducing food waste and also “the domain of family decision making.”
Before that, Mr. Singh was an assistant manager and senior analyst for Deloitte, the audit, consulting, tax and advisory services company, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Mr. Singh’s next court date is set for Jan. 27, according to the sheriff’s office.
Sheelagh McNeill provided research.