Tom W. was flying from Louisiana to California with a layover in Houston.
Turns out, his layover was a lot longer than expected.
You see, Tom was supposed to change plans at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
And like many people, Tom fell asleep on the flight from Louisiana to Houston.
But, unlike everybody else on the plane, he didn’t wake up when the plane landed.
Instead, Tom woke up to a parked, empty, and dark airplane cabin.
Inexplicably, none of the cabin crew noticed Tom sitting in a window seat near the rear of the airplane, sound asleep.
The staff shut down and closed the plane without seeing or waking Tom.
“I looked down the aisle, there was nobody on the plane,” Tom said.
“It was locked up. The lights were off. No motors running. It was like it was secured for the night.”
Tom admits to being a heavy sleeper. He was used to working on a boat and sleeping with movement.
So, he wasn’t surprised that he didn’t wake up during the landing.
“That’s the norm for me. A little jolt wouldn’t bother me.”
He said his biggest concern was finding the bathroom on the plane in the dark.
Thankfully, he found it, and that it wasn’t locked.
Next, Tom used his cell phone to call his girlfriend, who laughed at his situation.
He told her, “Get me off this plane! Stop laughing. It’s getting cold.”
Tom’s girlfriend called United Airlines in Louisiana where he had originally boarded the plane, but she was told that there was no way he was stuck on a plane.
Getting antsy, Tom thought about getting himself off the plane.
“I grabbed the (entrance door) lever. I thought: I better not do that. Let them get me off the plane. So many things go through your head.”
About 30 minutes after Tom woke up, a maintenance worker opened the door to the aircraft.
The worker said, “What are you doing on this plane? Where’s your badge?”
Tom explained he was a passenger and had fallen asleep on the flight. The maintenance worker escorted Tom to the terminal.
Unfortunately, Tom missed his connecting flight to California and had to spend the night at a hotel near the airport.
The airline said in a statement that it apologized to the passenger and that it was investigating what happened.
They also gave Tom a $250 voucher and paid the hotel bill.
Obviously, airline travel is not perfect and is pretty bad much of the time.
In 2022, while U.S. airlines carried 853 million passengers, about 23% of flights were delayed.
And remember the Southwest Airlines debacle during the 2022 holiday season when they canceled thousands of flights?
If we learned anything about air travel since the pandemic, it’s that you can (and should) expect delays and cancellations.
This is why it’s important to be prepared for an extended stay at the airport – or an airplane in Tom’s case.
One good way to prepare is to have a small airport go bag. And here are a few things you want to have in your bag.
Cash is king, especially if you are stranded somewhere.
If you are stuck in an airport you might need to get a cab or even ask a stranger for a ride.
If you stick a $50 bill in someone’s face, they might be more willing to drive you somewhere safe.
At the very least, I would keep $300 in your airport go bag, broken into different denominations so you can spread the money around for other uses.
Many airports have plenty of restaurants to choose from, but the problem is they’re not open 24/7.
So, if your flight is delayed, you may end up arriving when everything’s shut down. If you haven’t eaten all day, you’ll be out of luck.
That’s why I recommend packing at least two energy or protein bars with you. Try to find bars with some nutritional value.
In addition, you’ll want a water bottle that you can refill as needed.
And a small water filter for purification is a good option, too. Depending on where you land or are stranded, the water may be sketchy.
Charger and power bank:
You should keep your phone charger on you in case you get stuck in an airport.
Plus, airport electrical outlets can be hard to come by since they are always being used.
And hackers love to use the airport charging stations to worm their way into people’s phones or computers, so I suggest not using them at all.
Along with your charger, you should also carry a power bank in case you can’t find an outlet.
Nowadays, power banks are tiny and can easily be added to a go bag.
Since I can’t carry my gun or knife in an airport, I always have at least one tactical pen on me.
If you put the cap on the pointed end it looks like a regular writing tool. In fact, I use it to take notes at the airport if I need to write anything down.
Another tool I recommend is a small flashlight.
If you get trapped in a dark place like Tom, or if the power goes out at the airport, you may need some light to see where you are going.
Finally, add some type of small emergency blanket to your bag.
Airports get cold, especially if you are stuck there overnight, and an emergency mylar blanket is better than nothing.
You could continue adding critical gear to your airport go-bag based on your specific needs.
For instance, if you take medication, you should keep it in your go bag.
The best thing to do is to keep your airport go bag small enough to be carry-on and personalize it for your unique situation.
Chances are good that at some point your flight will be canceled or delayed.
If you are stuck in an airport these basic items can make the situation more manageable.
Now, an airport bag is just one of the bags you should have dialed-in, packed, and ready to go.
You should have emergency go bags, or bug out bags, for everyone in your family.
These bags should be prepped and ready to grab at a moment’s notice in case of a crisis.