Skip to main content

Traveler wakes up on airliner, locked in and alone

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 9:08 AM EST, Mon December 9, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tom Wagner, left on plane, calls girlfriend for help; she initially doesn't believe him
  • He says he slept through landing and woke up in a dark cabin
  • Wagner was traveling from Louisiana to California
  • United offers $250 voucher while ExpressJet says it will investigate what happened

(CNN) -- Tom Wagner woke up Friday night and the plane cabin was dark. And empty. Completely empty.

He looked around from his window seat near the back of the jet and wondered, "What is going on?"

He tried the jet door. It was locked.

Not knowing what else to do, he phoned his girlfriend and said, "Debbie, you gotta call the airlines. I'm locked in the plane."

She didn't quite believe him and started laughing.

"I said I'm serious," Wagner explained Monday morning on CNN's "New Day," chuckling about the conversation. "She finally hung up and called the airlines."

About 30 minutes later, the door opened.

Wagner, from Louisiana, was on his way to California to see his sister. The plane had a layover in Houston, Wagner said, so he took his hat off and took a nap.

Apparently a very deep sleeper, he didn't wake up when the plane landed. And somehow when airline employees were doing their usual sweep of the plane, they missed him. Dozens of passengers left the plane and so did the flight crew.

Wagner said he walked around the plane in the dark trying to figure out the best thing to do.

He said eventually workers opened the plane doors and, startled, asked him what he was doing in there.

He tried to explain calmly that he'd been left behind.

After his ordeal, he's been talking about what happened.

"I talk to people, (and they say) like, man, I'd have freaked out!"

Wagner stayed in a hotel room, on the airline, before flying to California the next day. He said United gave him a $250 voucher.

The flight was operated by ExpressJet, a United partner.

"ExpressJet is investigating to determine how this occurred. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused for the passenger," the carrier said Saturday in a written statement.

ExpressJet told CNN affiliate KTRK there was a post-flight cabin inspection, but the company couldn't explain how Wagner was overlooked.

Boy hops plane to Vegas, apparently alone and without ticket

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:45 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
updated 7:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
updated 5:54 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
updated 7:53 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT