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Air passenger gets plane all to himself after waiting out 18-hour delay


CNN, WSOC

By Julia Buckley, CNN

(CNN) — If you’ve ever thought that having an empty seat beside you on a flight is the ultimate travel goal, try this for size: an entire plane to yourself.

That was the dream scenario for Phil Stringer, who was flying from Oklahoma to North Carolina on Sunday at 6.30 a.m.

Or, at least, that was the flight he booked. But by the time his American Airlines plane from Oklahoma City to Charlotte took off, it was Monday morning. He was also on, effectively, a private jet.

Stringer – a realtor from Greensboro – saw his morning flight delayed because of the storms that saw more than 9,000 US flights canceled or delayed over the weekend.

As the delay got longer and longer – Stringer says departure was pushed back no fewer than seven times – other passengers due to travel either rebooked their flights or gave up entirely, but he kept waiting.

By the time the plane finally took off at 12 minutes past midnight, he was the only one to board.

He filmed the process and posted a video to Tiktok, showing the experience.

“I’m the only person on the plane and they have an entire flight crew, they don’t want to do this flight,” he laughed into the camera. “They pulled them from the hotel to come do this flight for just one person.”

No sleep

He filmed a baggage handler confirming he’d only loaded a single bag onto the flight, a giggling gate agent announcing boarding to rows of empty seats, and a jaunty personal safety demonstration from the flight attendants, who didn’t seem as angry about being called to work at midnight as they might.

The flight arrived at 3.35 a.m. and he got home around 7 a.m., showered, and went to work on no sleep, he told CNN affiliate WSOC-TV in an interview.

“I felt so bad [for the crew],” he added. “They were at their hotel, they were going to go to bed. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they literally had to come here for me.’”

Perhaps as penance, they joked that he’d be getting no peanuts or pretzels.

But Stringer says the group had a whale of a time and were still in touch the following day.

A private plane ride doesn’t stop other travel glitches, however – and with lost bag rates up nearly 75%, the luggage curse struck him. Stringer says his bag was “misplaced” for about 45 minutes on arrival.

The new travel dream? A personal plane and a luggage tracker.

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