Sleeping Passenger Gets Left on Plane

A passenger fell asleep on a plane, missed disembarkation, and woke up alone on a dark and empty aircraft. If only the rest of us could sleep so soundly while flying!

United Express passenger Tom Wagner, like many tired travelers, fell asleep on his flight from Louisiana to Houston’s Bush Intercontinental. The plane landed in Houston, and Wagner continued sleeping. Wagner didn’t wake up when everyone else deplaned, and airline personnel apparently didn’t spot him when they did their final sweep of the aircraft. So he stayed onboard, snoozing.

ABC affiliate KTRK reports that Wagner eventually woke up in the dark and found himself locked inside the vacant aircraft. Wagner told KTRX, “I woke up and the lights were out. I was like, what’s going on? I thought maybe it was a layover, still on the same plane.”

Wagner used his phone to call his girlfriend, who then contacted the airline. After about half an hour, workers arrived and freed him from the plane. Wagner missed his connecting flight to California.

Ensuring all passengers have safely disembarked is the responsibility of airline personnel. This case is a clear failure on the part of the airline. As compensation for his ordeal, United offered Wagner a night’s stay in a hotel room and a $250 voucher. ExpressJet, the United partner that operated Wagner’s United Express flight, released a statement saying, “ExpressJet is investigating to determine how this occurred. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused for the passenger.”

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(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

By Caroline Costello

Caroline Costello's travel accomplishments include surviving a 2 a.m. whitewater rafting excursion in the Canadian wilderness, successfully biking from Dusseldorf to Cologne without a map, and gaining access to a covert pizza speakeasy in New Orleans.

Caroline is an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Her work has appeared on USA Today, the Boston Globe,,, ABC News, TODAY Travel, and, among other publications.

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