Passenger Boards a 737 to Find No One Else Bought Tickets and He Has Plane to Himself

On March 16th a Lithuanian man was flying from Vilnius, Lithuania to Bergamo, Italy and found he had the entire Boeing 737-800 to himself. He found the 925 mile flight to be a ‘once in a lifetime experience’.

A travel agency had chartered the aircraft from Italy to Lithuania, and they were on the hook to pay for its return so offered tickets on the segment back to Italy. Only one person bought a ticket.

There’s something cool about being the only passenger on a plane, and being doted on by crew even if there’s no decent business class seat to relax in and not much service to offer. It’s just unique.

Still it does happen from time to time.

I’ve flown alone in first class many times, for instance flying Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Paris, Thai Airways from Bangkok to Tokyo, and ANA from Chicago to Tokyo. As a kid I flew New York – Cincinnati with maybe 3 other passengers on the plane (I was an unaccompanied minor).

On January 1, 2000 (“Y2K”) peopel were staying away from planes but I flew United Los Angeles – Washington Dulles and business class was upgraded to first, economy to business, while they recalculated weight and balance.

(HT: Paul H.)

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, 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 remember being on an AirTran flight from ROC-BOS in 2006 for something ridiculous like $39, and there were so few people on board that everyone got moved up to ‘first’. There were maybe 7 or 8 people total on board – was pretty cool for a college kid!

  2. Ha. I had first class to myself on an AA flight earlier this year. I asked the FA if I could get my picture taken in each seat jokingly. They went to the back of the plane and upgraded all veterans on the flight. That was a really awesome thing for them to do. Think that was a CR9 or CR7.

  3. I flew from Chicago to Zurich in early August 1990 just days after the start of the First Gulf War. Shared First Class with one other passenger, but there couldn’t have been more than about a dozen people on that whole Swissair 747. Folks were afraid to fly.

  4. I was the only passenger in business/first class on an Etihad A320 from Kathmandu, Nepal to Abu Dhabi. But the most unusual thing about the flight was we stopped in Lucknow, India an hour after takeoff strictly to refuel. Etihad would not buy fuel in Nepal. No one was allowed off the plane.

  5. In the late 80’s when smoking in airplanes was declining but before they banned it, I would choose a seat in the smoking section on the overnight flight to London. The cabin would be empty (maybe even smokers didn’t want to be around smoke while trying to sleep?) and I got five seats together and slept the whole flight every time. And no I wasn’t a smoker.

  6. THis happened to me many years ago Milwaukee to Detroit. Late night flight. 2 FA’s, and me. Sat in the back and the FA’s sat down w me. It was a nice hour or so, albeit a very rough flight.

  7. The closest I came to an empty flight was about 8-10 people on a Virgin America SFO-JFK flight. It was only a month after their launch and I wanted to try them out and I picked the 7am flight. I also bought their premium class seat just to try it out. Most of the premium seats had people but there weren’t many more than that back in economy. The return, this time in coach because they changed the return leg on me and that flight’s premium cabin was full, was just about as empty in economy. It was a weird experience.

  8. I was alone in a Thai 737 from Nakhon Ratchsima to BKK right after the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis hit. I think I paid about USD $13 for the ticket.

  9. Like the days of the old Eastern shuttle between Washington and New York -everyone with a ticket was guaranteed a seat, even walk ups. Section full? No problem, we’ll bring out another plane. My father was the single passenger on a Shuttle flight several times in the 60s and into the 70s.

  10. I was once on an AA flight from MIA to BOS, which was an MD-80 that was oddly scheduled to depart just a few minutes later than an A300 on the same route. Got on the flight and there were only 3 passengers! They moved us all to first class and treated us as such, Ah, those were the days……

  11. My wife and I were the only two pax in F on an Emirates A380 flying SFO-DXB. It was awesome – we each had a shower room to ourselves. My wife even took two showers – one before going to sleep and one upon awakening!

  12. 1 of 9 on a 747 Bangkok- Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak. It was a bit creepy and had an ominous feel about it, not least because I was on my way to a funeral.

  13. My wife and I only pax F class CX 747 NRT to HKG. Amazing experience – like having your own private jet – wished it was a longer flight! Also one of 3 pax on B6 flight JFK – MCO – last flight out in evening mid-week.

  14. When I was much younger, traveling from a home visit on TWA in my Coast Guard officer’s uniform on military standby from San Francisco to St. Louis on Christmas day, I was the only one on the plane. The stewardesses (yes, that was they were called then) first asked for which airline I was flying. My response was still interesting enough to them to continue the conversation. I was very optimistic about this until I realized that the flight would go on to Chicago with the lovely stewardesses who, alas, were based there.

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