Sleeping airline employee flies in cargo hold from Kansas City to Chicago

The cargo hold was heated and pressurized, and the man wasn't injured.
Image: American Airlines, Boeing 737
An American Airlines 737 800 jetliner in March.Larry MacDougal / AP file

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By Jay Blackman and Alex Johnson

An American Airlines employee fell asleep in a cargo hold of a Boeing 737 in Kansas City, Missouri, and when he emerged about an hour later, he was in Chicago, the airline said Wednesday.

The employee — who wasn't identified but who the airline said works for its Piedmont Airlines subsidiary — was intoxicated, said a source with direct knowledge of the incident, speaking on condition of anonymity.

American said that the man "inadvertently" fell asleep in the forward cargo hold on Saturday morning and was still inside when the jet took off. The cargo hold was heated and pressurized, and the man wasn't injured, the airline said.

"Our top priority is ensuring the well-being of the Piedmont employee," the airline said. "He did not request any medical attention upon arrival in Chicago, and we are grateful that he did not sustain any injuries."

The incident was first reported by USA Today, which said the man wasn't charged and that he later flew back to Kansas City on another American flight.