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 3:15 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 4:58 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 11:33 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
With so many new attractions on the way, the next few years are going to be a roller coaster ride.
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
updated 6:33 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 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