Chicago O’Hare Airport Employee Fired After Losing Master Keys To Security

An employee at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was fired after a security mishap. The employee in question lost a set of master keys for O’Hare International Airport’s secure access facilities. In light of this, the employee was relieved from their duties.

Chicago O'Hare
A lost set of master keys to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport led to the termination of an employee. Photo: Nick Harris via Flickr

The investigation

This news comes from the Chicago Sun-Times who initially reported the story. According to their investigation, the missing keys unlock perimeter fences and key entry points. Overall, the keys could open around 100 perimeter gates, 150 other gates, and an “unknown amount” of doors, elevators, and washrooms. In terms of airport security, these are some of the first-line defenses against unwanted intrusions and potential malicious acts.

Airport Fence
The keys unlocked access to some perimeter fences. Photo: Benjamin Balázs via Flickr

Lost keys

Due to their importance, only a few sets of master keys exist. It seems that the employee lost these keys in April. Reportedly, the FBI and Chicago Police Department joined the search and investigation. However, the keys remain at large.

Due to the severity of the incident, the employee in question was terminated. Notably, this is not common practice at the Chicago Department of Aviation. Employees are generally safe from extreme disciplinary action, such as termination.

Airport Security

Despite the loss of keys, Chicago O’Hare remained safe, although the airport entered a state of heightened security. As part of this, additional security personnel were stationed at various points across the airfield. At the end of the day, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation, there were no security breaches.

O'Hare Airport
Chicago O’Hare International Airport remained safe and secure. Photo: Jake Przespo via Flickr

Meanwhile, locks and keys across the airfield underwent a full replacement. Unfortunately for the city, replacing all the locks and keys cost “five figures”.

Previous security incidents

O’Hare International Airport is one of the busiest in the world. And, previously, there have been security breaches. Recently, some passengers from an arriving Finnair flight did not clear immigration or customs. Officials, however, later caught up with all the passengers.

Finnair A350
Passengers on a Finnair flight to Chicago left the airport without clearing customs. Photo: Finnair

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported, back in April, that an employee drove a vehicle onto the same runway where an American Airlines aircraft was landing. That employee received only a suspension, loss of driving privileges, and some mandatory additional training.


Airport security personnel at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport have a bit of a mixed reputation. Most people remember them from the incident involving the unfortunate removal of Dr. David Dao from a United Express flight. But now, it seems they’ve cost the city again due to the loss of the keys. However, there was no major security breach at Chicago O’Hare as a result of this incident.

What do you think about the situation? Let us know in the comments!