Several passengers arriving on a Finnair flight at Chicago O’Hare International Airport unintentionally walked right out of the terminal, bypassing all customs and immigration facilities due to opened doors.
Some of the passengers were confused when they suddenly ended up in the general terminal area without having seen a single immigration official. One of them then alerted CBP at O’Hare where an officer just suggested not to worry and go home.
Several passengers arriving on an international flight walked straight out of O’Hare, completely bypassing customs, during an apparent security breach at the airport’s international terminal Wednesday.
A passenger — who did not want to be identified — told WGN he was arriving on Finnair Flight AY09 from Helsinki to Chicago Wednesday afternoon. After getting off the plane, the passenger said he walked to an exit, and followed a TSA Agent through the door leading outside.
There was no stop at customs, as there should be for any international flight arriving at O’Hare. When he noticed the error, the passenger said he went to an agent in the Customs and Border Control (CBP) office, and they told him to not worry and “just go ahead.”
The agent didn’t even check his passport. But five hours later, CBP came to his house. …
This is confusing on multiple levels. Aside the fact that this should never had happened, but was this individual who went to see the CBP officer a U.S. citizen? It would seem so since he appears to be a resident of Chicago and CBP later sent officers to his address in order to clear him officially. Where did they get his address from, the reservation record and credit card billing information?
In any case why aren’t these doors locked or in the very least sound an alarm if opened without punching in a code or swiping a key card?
… A spokesperson for CBP confirms the incident took place, saying a Finnair station manager notified the agency some passengers bypassed customs, and agents processed those who could be found in the airport departure lounge. They said at least four people made it out without being checked, but all international passengers have now been accounted for.
Saying such incidents have happened before, the CBP spokesperson said it’s up to the airlines to make sure passengers go from an arrival gate to customs, but a spokesperson with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it’s CBP’s responsibility.
It would be highly surprising if the responsibility falls to the airline alone and CBP as appropriate law enforcement agency has no role in this whatsover. The matter is simply too sensitive to leave it just to a private company and their minimum wage employees at a random U.S. airport, so one would expect that CBP has to provide oversight there.
What’s crazy is that with all the security, technology and money invested a common mistake such as this shows how easy the system can be circumvented or at least tampered with.
Interesting that CBP actually sent agents to the passengers homes in order to complete a clearing procedure, especially as far as U.S. citizens are concerned. There is no way for them to reconcile what the passenger actually had on him in terms of customs allowance or prohibited items and any U.S. citizen is admissible to the country either way.
It wasn’t said for sure how many people exactly left the sterile area without proceeding to CBP. This isn’t the first time that something like this happened. Back in 2015 a whole plane load of passengers arriving on American Airlines from Mexico just left the airport without any checks after the flight was handled as a domestic arrival.