How Did American Airlines Fly a Plane With One Person on Board?

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In one strange recent event, American Airlines made a commercial flight with only one passenger on board. A real estate broker from North Carolina experienced this memorable and unusual flight while trying to get home from Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers airport. Here’s exactly what happened, along with some other interesting information about flight delays and cancellations.

What happened?

Real estate broker Phil Stringer’s flight was delayed seven times, for a total of 18 hours of delay due to maintenance issues. While other passengers gave up and took alternate flights, he patiently waited at the airport. Eventually, the airport staff informed him that the plane had finally landed, by this time it was midnight the day after his planned 6 A.M. flight.

To Stringer’s surprise, he found himself as the sole passenger on the plane. In an interview afterwards, he said, “It was eerie because you’re not used to being the only person on the plane and there is no one behind you. I am the only person here.” The flight attendants made the best of the situation, and the plane landed safely in Charlotte after two and a half hours. Although the airline lost his bag, the only one on the plane, briefly upon arrival, Stringer remained in good spirits.

Other crazy flight delays and cancellations

While this situation was somewhat unique, there are plenty of other stories of insane flight delays and cancellations that create situations we wouldn’t usually expect.

Toilet paper delay

In 2017, a British Airways flight to Barbados was delayed by five hours due to a shortage of toilet paper and complimentary headphones. The airline provided passengers with vouchers to eat something in the airport while waiting, but many passengers were still understandably upset.

Alaskan seal delay

In 2017, several flights out of Alaska’s Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport were delayed due to a 450-pound seal that was found sleeping on the middle of the runway. After failed attempts to get the seal to move away, animal control had to load the seal onto a sled and transport it off of the runway.

Emotional support squirrel delay

In 2018, a Frontier flight from Orlando to Cleveland was delayed after a woman brought a squirrel on the plane with her as an “emotional support animal.” While support animals are allowed on the airline, rodents are not, so the angry woman and her squirrel were both escorted off of the plane by police.

How often are flights delayed or canceled?

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2022, 3.56% of commercial flights were canceled, and 19.97% were delayed. This means that for every 1,000 flights, 35 were canceled and 200 were delayed. Delayed flights are extremely common, so if it happens to you, it’s most likely no reason to be alarmed. The most common reason for flight delays is weather, followed by mechanical problems.

The statistics show that commercial flights are relatively reliable, but there is always a chance of a delay or cancellation. Passengers should be prepared for this possibility by checking the status of their flight before leaving for the airport. Many airlines now provide an app that will give flyers real-time updates about the statuses of their upcoming flights.