Skip to main content

Traveler wakes up on airliner, locked in and alone

By Steve Almasy, CNN
December 9, 2013 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
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
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT)
This is how the two U.S. aid workers infected with Ebola will be evacuated from west Africa.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1818 GMT (0218 HKT)
While aspects of the fighting in Gaza resemble earlier clashes, this time feels different, writes military analyst Rick Francona.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1829 GMT (0229 HKT)
How did al Qaeda recruit a former Florida high school footballer?
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1108 GMT (1908 HKT)
Flowers, a teddy bear and the smells of jet fuel and death haunt the MH17 crash site.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0354 GMT (1154 HKT)
If India and the U.S. were Facebook friends, the relationship between them would be "complicated." Can John Kerry's visit change that?
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
Take a look inside Airbus' new -- and surprisingly quiet -- A350XWB.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 0331 GMT (1131 HKT)
What're you doing after work today? If you lived in these cities you could head to the BEACH!
ADVERTISEMENT