Road Warrior

'Get me off this plane': Man locked in dark cabin in worst layover ever

Scott Stump, TODAY contributor
Passenger left in plane
Passenger left in plane

A man who dozed off during a connecting flight Friday was not dreaming when he woke to find himself alone and locked in a darkened cabin.

Tom Wagner, a Louisiana boat captain, nodded off on a flight from Lafayette, La., to Los Angeles on United Airlines with a stop in Houston when he got a different kind of layover.

"I woke up, and I looked up at the ceiling, and I saw the lights were out,'' Wagner said on TODAY Monday. "Looked down the aisle, ain't nobody was home."

File Photo of a United Express Jet plane.
Robert Alexander | Getty Images

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Wagner tried to open the door to exit the plane, but it was locked. He quickly called his girlfriend, who thought he was joking.

"She started laughing,'' he said. "I said, 'You gotta call United and get me off this plane.'''

His girlfriend quickly called the airline.

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"She says, 'My boyfriend's on that airplane, you gotta get someone to get him off,''' he said. "And he said, 'Ma'am, we sweep those planes. There's no way he's on that plane.'''

Boeing Dreamlifter lifts off
Boeing Dreamlifter lifts off

After a half hour, maintenance workers opened the door and were stunned to find him inside.

"They said, 'Where's your badge?''' Wagner said. "I said, 'Dude, I don't work here, I'm a passenger on this airplane.' And he said 'Hold on, hold on.' He didn't believe it."

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"It's obvious in this case that the crew exiting the airplane did not do a sweep,'' aviation expert Michael Boyd told TODAY. "Whatever they say, you can't miss this."

United offered him $250 and a hotel room in Houston for the night, according to Wagner. ExpressJet, the company that operated the United flight, issued a statement to TODAY.

"ExpressJet is investigating to determine how this occurred. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused for the passenger."

Wagner was puzzled as to why no one tried to wake him.

"I just don't know how it happened, I really don't,'' he said. "I mean, passengers get off, you'd think somebody would have rubbed me or pushed me and said, 'Hey buddy, we're here.'''

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Wagner is set to return to Louisiana on United next week. This time, he said, he'll get a good night's sleep before the flight.

—By Scott Stump, TODAY contributor