Serial Stowaway Marilyn Hartman Gets 'Caught' and Arrested at Chicago's O'Hare Airport: Report

Serial stowaway, Marilyn Hartman in a 2018 photo.
Chicago Police Department

Hartman, 69, has been plane-hopping since 2002.

The name Marilyn Hartman may not sound familiar to you, but it does to TSA agents. Known as the ‘serial stowaway,’ Hartman, who has claimed to have taken more than 30 flights without paying, was busted at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for criminal trespassing on Tuesday, according to a published report.

The 69-year-old managed to sneak away from the West Side halfway house where she resides. However, the Cook County Sheriff’s office was one step ahead of the cunning stowaway. Investigators with the electronic monitoring division were able to track Hartman through the GPS on her ankle bracelet, giving Chicago police the heads-up that Hartman may be at the airport, CBSN Chicago reported. 

Hartman got as far as Terminal 2 before Transportation Security Administration recognized her and notified law enforcement. The sheriff’s office said that an alarm siren had been activated on Hartman’s device, at which point she was taken into custody, the news organization reported.

The sheriff’s office said it will seek approval for a felony escape charge against Hartman, who is already facing another felony charge from a previous stowaway attempt, according to reports.

Hartman told CBS Chicago’s Brad Edwards during an interview that she started hopping planes without a ticket in 2002, and that depression and resistance to her bipolar diagnosis were some of the reasons. Finding a friend in Edwards, Hartman has kept in touch with the news reporter since 2019 and has shared some of her escapades with him. "The first time I was able to get through, I flew to Copenhagen . . . The second time, I flew into Paris,” she said.

At times during the interview, it sounded like she was surprised that she was able to sneak past airline security.

"I got by [security], this is the thing that is so crazy, by following someone that would be carrying like, a blue bag,"  CBS News reported. "And the next thing I know, I get into the TSA line and TSA lets me through and they think I'm with the guy with the blue bag." 

In 2020, Hartman told Edwards she wanted to “apologize to those she affected,” claiming that “it wasn’t my intention to make their jobs more difficult.”