An American Airlines ramp worker in Kansas City, who admits he was trying to sleep one off, took a nap in the cargo hold of a Boeing 737 and woke up on his way to Chicago this week. The unidentified employee told police that he was drunk and didn’t realize that he had been locked in baggage compartment until it was too late.
Showing up at work drunk and then sleeping on the job is just bad form – no matter what the line of work. For baggage handlers, however, this sort of behavior can come with a highly unique set of risks. On Saturday an American Airlines ramp worker at Kansas City International Airport (MCI) who decided to sneak a quick nap in the belly of a 737 being loaded for takeoff woke a short time later to find that he was en route to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD).
According to USA Today, the employee told police that he “was intoxicated and fell asleep.” The Airport worker was not discovered until the plane arrived at the gate in Chicago more than an hour and a half after departing from Kansas City. The baggage handler, employed by American Airlines subsidiary Piedmont Airlines, was reportedly unharmed and refused medical treatment. He was eventually returned home on later flight after answering questions from local and federal investigators who say the 23-year-old will not likely be charged criminally.
According to the airline, the baggage compartment where the unauthorized passenger perched during his unexpected adventure is both pressurized and heated. American Airline officials say the stowaway employee has now been suspended pending an investigation.
“The American team is very concerned about this serious situation,” a company spokesperson told the newspaper. “We are reviewing what transpired with our Piedmont and Kansas City colleagues … We are grateful that he did not sustain any injuries.”
Although not exactly commonplace, instances of sleeping airline employees waking from an on-the-clock slumber to find themselves on the way to a faraway destination are not entirely unprecedented. On New Year’s Day last year, a then-45-year-old United Express baggage handler, named Reginald Gaskin, survived the journey from Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) unharmed after falling asleep in the cargo hold of an Embraer 170. IN 2015, an Alaska Airlines contractor was discovered in the cargo hold of a Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) bound jet after the captain “reported hearing a banging noise coming from inside the Boeing 737-900.”