Airports have long been seen as the gateway for escape; to get away from day-to-day life and explore the world beyond. Well, one man took the term ‘escape’ a little too far after venturing to Beijing Capital International Airport 14 years ago and never returned.
Wei Jianguo, a Chinese man in his 60s, has lived at the airport’s Terminal 2 since 2008.
Wei has called the Beijing Airport home ever since he had a falling out with his family. He said that his family had told him to quit smoking and drinking, which he refused, leading him to leave home and live on his monthly government allowance.
Wei moved to the airport in 2008. He has settled at Terminal 2’s waiting area, setting up his belongings, sleeping bag, and food there, although he sometimes relocated to Terminal 3 if he wishes so. The airport staff recognizes his presence, and some even encouraged him to leave although eventually, they let him be as long as he doesn’t disrupt other passengers.
Wei is not alone in his airport-dwelling lifestyle. In 2018, as many as six people were thought to be living like him at the airport.
“I can’t go back home because I have no freedom there. My family told me if I wanted to stay, I had to quit smoking and drinking. If I couldn’t do that, I had to give them all my monthly government allowance of 1,000 yuan (£119.43). But then how would I buy my cigarettes and alcohol?,” Wei told the local news station.
Wei is not homeless. He has a home about 12 miles from the airport. He just chooses not to go home. He will go home to get essential items if necessary, or he will leave the airport to go shopping. Those instances are rare. He prefers to stay in the waiting area of the airport, usually in terminal 2 but sometimes terminal 3.
Wei has also decided to give up on looking for work after he was laid off in his 40s and struggled to keep a new job because of being ‘too old’.
Surprisingly, he doesn’t have the longest tenure of living at an airport either.
Turkish man Bayram Tepeli moved to Ataturk Airport in 1991 for similar reasons to that of Wei’s, and lived there for 27 years before the airport closed in 2019. He now lives in Sabiha Gokcen Airport.
Watch the video below to see how Wei manages to live at the airport: