Woman Flies By Herself on Regional Jet, Internet Explodes

A woman shared her experience this week on Reddit in a post that’s garnered over 5000 comments and 130,000 ‘up votes’.

She was flying from New York to DC in what looks to me to be either an Embraer ERJ-140 or 145. With plenty of cancellations due to weather, lots of passengers being re-accommodated, the plane was expected to be completely devoid of passengers. Everyone on this woman’s earlier cancelled flight got rebooked .. but then moved to an earlier flight.

Except she had left the airport and didn’t know she could fly earlier, too. So she showed up as the only passenger for this flight.

I got a whole plane to myself when I was accidentally booked on a flight just meant for moving crew. from mildlyinteresting

She explains,

One of the airport agents came over while I was waiting and asked if that was the flight I was waiting for then said “I knew this would happen.” When my flight was canceled about 8 hours earlier a confused agent gave me and half the passengers a seat for the plane in the pic before another agent realized everyone could go on an earlier flight. They made an announcement on the speaker but I’d already left to go back to my parent’s house nearby to wait for the next few hours. I was never contacted about the flight change.

She says she understood everyone thought they’d just be repositioning the aircraft, not serving passengers. “The pilots both introduced themselves before the flight” and everyone thought it was cool — on the plane and apparently on the internet.

There’s something that resonates with this ‘lottery win’ of an experience, even for a short 200 mile hop. That’s probably because planes are usually so full, each passenger has so little space — and that space is getting squeezed as airlines add more seats into the cabin.

Although I thought it was special when something similar happened to me as a kid flying New York – Cincinnati. And I’ve certainly had the first class cabin to myself many times, flying ANA, Korean, Thai, and Emirates for instance.

The emptiest plane I’ve ever experienced as an adult traveler was United Airlines Los Angeles – Washington Dulles onboard a Boeing 777 late morning on New Years Day 2000 — Y2K — everyone else was either hung over or afraid to fly.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve had a flight where there were 7 passengers, and that was only because the AA flight to MIA cancelled, so they put 4 passengers on the UA flight to ORD. Only 3 of us were originally booked for the flight.

  2. Grabbed that $80ish Myanmar-Vancouver ANA/Delta biz class mistake fare a few years back when ANA was flying an all-business class 737 RGN-NRT. I was the only passenger on the flight that day out of RGN out of 100 seats. Sort of a strange experience.

  3. When I was a young Coast Guard officer, I flew back from Christmas at home to St. Louis from SFO on military standby on TWA Christmas day. I and the lovely stewardesses were the only ones in the passenger compartments. I was in uniform. They stuck up a conversation, thinking at first that I was a pilot. Alas, they were based in Chicago. (And yes, they were called stewardesses then, which tells you something about how old I am and for how long I have been flying.)

  4. Similar to my experience back I believe around 2005. Iberia from Spain to JFK. 747-400 was cancelled due to mechanical problems and told to come back next day. I had no place to go so stayed at the airport to wait. Hours later an agent made an announcement the plane was fixed and they had to get it back to NYC. If anyone was waiting at the gate they could take the flight. I took the offer even though I was a bit concerned about “mechanical problems”. Was in business class and figured not many people on board. Turned out it was just me and two other passengers! Will never, ever forget that experience!!

  5. I was on Air France flight from SIN to CDG that had no more than 20 people on board on an A380! The flight was cancelled the night before for mechanical reasons. AF was able to put most people on other flights because they did not know when this one would go out. I wasn’t able to get through to rebook but when I finally got through and told me it was going out early morning (I guess they needed it at CDG for the return). I was on the upper deck rear and there was no one in my section. In fact, nearly all of business class was empty yet they did not invite me up for the inconvenience. Nevertheless, it was creepy and exciting at the same time not to see another passenger as far as I could see. I took four middle seat that turned out to be a better bed than any of the fold-flats I experienced up front!

  6. No big deal, had the same on a flight to atl from chicago in the 90’s, just no social media to show everyone. It was last flight out and other passengers booked had flown standby on earlier flights.

  7. Great story. Took ORD – YUL a few years ago with my best friend and there were only 6 passengers on the flight. It was a very early departure time, short flight duration, but one of the most memorable.

  8. Christmas night 1984 I was flying ISP/ORD/DTW on American Airlines. The ISP/ORD leg was uneventful but when I got to ORD I found my connecting flight was delayed by several hours. I noticed that I was the only passenger sitting in the gate area. The DC-10 arrived, all the passengers deplaned and the gate agent announced the flight to DTW. I got my boarding pass and got on the plane when the flight attendant approached me and told me I was the only passenger on the plane. It was a short flight but the best service I’ve ever had.

  9. Ha! The elusive ‘Ghost Flight.’ Good for her! Last time this happened to me was in December 2009 on a NW-DL B752 crossfleeting flight (NW pilots and DL flight attendants) from MSP to LAX, leavving around 8pm.

    It had an 8000-series flight number and I think the flight was built at the last second prior to launch, precluding it from further sales. I only managed to get booked on it after asking an agent at the Worldclub if there was an earlier flight I could take.

    The crew forced me to sit in my paid class of service until after take off, when they allowed me to move up to first class. The weirdest thing about it was not that I was the only passenger in the flight, but rather that the crew went through the entire pre-pushback motions as if it were a full flight. They did the safety presentation as if it were for hundreds of people although the seats were empty. I was thinking, “I’m right here. Can’t you just come and quickly do a one-on-one briefing?” Instead, a flight attendant went up and down the aisle as if to check that everyone’s seatbelt were fastened and all seatbacks were in the upright position. Hence: the expression ‘Ghost flight.’

  10. About 30 years ago I was the only passenger on a flight from Cedar Rapids to Chicago, which at the time regularly stopped in Waterloo on the way to pick up passengers. That day only one passenger got on at Waterloo. He came up to me and said “you’re in my seat.” I laughed. He was serious! So I moved to another seat in the empty plane.

  11. I’ve gotten to sit in the cockpit jump seat before in a situation like this, but I think that’s not allowed anymore by FAA regulations.

  12. My wife was booked on a United flight from JFK to Sao Paulo on Sep 12, 2001. As all flights were canceled after 9/11 she took the first flight out after air traffic normalized. She doesn’t remember the type of plane but given the route it must have been a big one. In any case there were only four passengers on that flight. She had a coach ticket but United invited everybody to fly business.

  13. Was on a BDL-DFW 738 on AA back in 2012 with 11 of us on board. Only 3 in F, ha. It was pretty wild. No weather or mechanical reasons for this either. Totally normal ops.

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