Nightmare at 30,000 Feet is the second episode of season 1 in The Twilight Zone (2019) series.
A journalist (Adam Scott) listens to a podcast detailing how the plane on which he's a passenger will disappear.
“Settling in for a 13 hour Transatlantic flight to a land ripe with ancient mysteries is Justin Sanderson. Mr Sanderson’s occupation is to uncover unbiased truth; but with an hour left before certain doom, he must ask the right questions of the right people. Landing at the truth this time will require an unscheduled stopover...in the Twilight Zone.”
Investigative reporter Justin Sanderson goes through an airport security checkpoint in Miami, briefly being stopped for an additional pat down before proceeding to his flight. He stops at a snack bar after seeing a row of magazines with his article titled “The End of Civility?” on display. He bumps into a man named Joe Beaumont, who instantly recognizes him as the writer. A flattered Justin pays for Joe’s magazine and signs it.
Before boarding his plane to Tel Aviv, Justin calls his wife and immediately apologizes for raising his voice in an earlier argument. He promises to work on keeping his stress down, but she is skeptical — especially with him running off to another story. Justin admits to having PTSD after an assignment in Yemen. She reminds him of a mantra his therapist tells him: “the past is the past and that will help me get through the now”. He shares with her the odd coincidence that the date is October 15, he is on Flight 1015, and that it was delayed from 9:30pm to 10:15pm.
Justin scans his ticket and boards the flight; he asks the pilot “good flight today?” who reassures him by welcoming him aboard. A Middle Eastern family are being downgraded to coach because they need an extra seat for their child; Justin, who happens to have the seat next to him, politely gives up his seat so they can sit together. The flight attendant assigns a coach seat to him, who spots Joe in the back of the plane with a mini alcohol bottle. As a large bald man next to him, Justin finds an mp3 player (made from the Whipple company) in his seat compartment. After awkwardly reaching over the bald man for headphones, he listens to the player while the flight attendants give their safety spiel. A podcast called Enigmatique begins and Rodman Edwards begins to narrate Chapter 1 of “The Tragic Mystery of Northern Gold Star Flight 1015”. After accurately describing an upcoming thunderstorm, the podcast claims that the flight eventually disappears off radar and will never be seen again. Justin grows uneasy; the flight takes off and he repeats his mantra to calm down, annoying the bald man.
As the plane levels off, Justin begins the second chapter of the podcast — titled “Ominous Signs”. He attempts to get the bald man to listen. When he tells him its premise, the unnerved man quips “I don’t want to get lice” and leaves to find another seat. This catches the attention of a woman sitting across from Justin. At 10:21pm, a bird flies through a jet — an action predicted by the podcast seconds earlier. Justin panics and runs to a lavatory, constantly repeating his mantra to calm down.
When he gets back to his seat, Justin tries to tell a flight attendant named Nick about the bird incident but just leaves him confused. Justin panics but calms down when he draws attention and Nick tells him to lower his voice. After he leaves, Joe joins Justin. He reveals himself to be a former pilot of Northstar but was fired due to “one too many mistakes I can‘t take back”. He mysteriously confirms the bird incident and that he knows the main pilot Captain Donner (another fact heard on the podcast) before leaving — another moment witnessed by the woman across from him.
Justin continues on with the podcast. It relays that the flight disappears at 11:15pm (the time is 10:31pm) and that the Captain‘s final words were “goodnight New York”. Donner says through the intercom that they will try to maneuver the plane around the thunderstorm, uneasing Justin.
The podcast continues on with the third chapter, titled “Every Detail Counts”. Justin becomes very invested, now taking notes on the new details given. He is informed that since the TV monitors show the flight what is happening in the cockpit, the passengers would notice any foul play. He bothers two Sikh men watching a game on their phone, believing it could disrupt communications; the irritated flight attendants send him back to his seat.
Next the podcast tells Justin about a supposed targeted member of the flight named Igor Orlov, a Russian citizen traveling to Tel Aviv to testify against the Russian mafia. Justin bugs a flight attendant once more, looking to speak to the air marshal on the plane in charge of guarding Igor; she insists she has no idea who the marshal is or if there even is one on the plane. He confronts Joe, believing him to be the marshal; Joe, who has been heavily drinking, insists he is not. Justin decides to be crafty and sneak a peek at Igor’s belongings while he sleeps; however, he inadvertently wakes him up. Although Igor claims to be to a member of a Premier League team, Justin loudly lets his mafia connections slip and makes the claim that many people want him dead. A Russian passenger from first class hears this and lunges at Justin, causing chaos. Donner is called out form the cockpit to calm the situation; Justin claims Igor is lying about who he is and insists the captain take some action, but forces himself to calm down after realizing most of the passengers are now recording him.
On the way back to his seat, Justin learns he is the last person of interest from the podcast — he also hears audio from his earlier freakout (uploaded by a passenger who recorded him). Donner pulls Justin to the back of the plane when he refuses to sit down. Justin reveals he knows Donner will radio “goodnight New York“ in 14 minutes and says it will be the last thing anyone hears from the plane. This is immediately taken as a threat; the woman sitting across from Justin — revealed to be the Marshall — zipties his hands together and escorts him back to his seat. As the clock ticks down, she affirms him podcasts cannot predict the future. He tries to convince her he’s not having a breakdown, but she doesn’t buy it.
The marshal meets Donner in the back to discuss a new “situation”. As she leaves, Joe sits down next to Justin and says he believes him. A relieved Justin plots with Joe to take over the plane — since Joe is a pilot, he can successfully land the plane in Canada before it disappears. Joe claims a 4 number combination is required to enter the cockpit — Justin reveals with confidence it is 1015. Joe says he will put the passengers to sleep by dropping the cabin pressure to avoid a mass panic and gives Justin an oxygen tank to keep himself awake. He then goes up to the cockpit, types in 1015, and enters — via the monitors, the passengers witness Joe savagely beat the pilots unconscious and take over the plane. The entire plane goes into complete panic before Joe releases the oxygen masks and drops the cabin pressure. Joe maniacally speaks via the intercom to Justin, thanking him for giving him “an opportunity to find peace” after failing many times in his past. Joe radios to the ground and says ”goodnight New York” before passing out. Justin realizes what he has done as the plane flies right into the thunderstorm, destined to crash.
Justin wakes up on a beach with many suitcases washing up ashore (among these is a gremlin doll). He finds the mp3 player and rushes to finish it. In ”Part 2: The End of Civility”, Rodman Edwards informs his listeners that the passengers were eventually found after months of being stranded on an atoll; however, Justin was the sole exception and is “still considered missing to this day”.
At this moment, the angry passengers emerge from hiding and converge on Justin. Despite his insistence that he tried to save them, the people swarm over him to beat him to death as the mp3 player is picked up by Jordan Peele. The final shot pulls away to show the atoll and the plane wreckage.
”In his final moments, Justin Sanderson made the case that he did everything he could to avert disaster. But in the end, he was an investigative reporter unwilling to investigate himself until it was too late. Justin discovered that the flight path to hell is paved with good intentions, and it passes directly....through the Twilight Zone.”
- Adam Scott as Justin Sanderson
- Chris Diamantopoulos as Joe Beaumont
- Dan Carlin as Rodman Edwards (voice)
- Katie Findlay as Tammy Crosby
- Nicholas Lea as Captain Donner
- China Shavers as Alysha Quinn
- J. Cameron Barnett as Flight Attendant Nick
- Nabil Ayoub as Fawwaz Khalidi
- Hana Kinani as Sadeen Khalidi
- Greg Zach as Suspicious Punk
- Vladimir Ruzich as Tsezar
- Alexander Mandra as Igor Orlov
- Demelza Randall as Mandy
- Emanuel Mokhtari as Fadi Khalidi
- Arkie Kandola as Omesh Singh
- Tarun Keram as Tanveera Singh
- Tim Howe as TSA Agent
- Brea Schneider as Gate Attendant
- Samir Wassan from the episode The Comedian and Oliver Foley for the then-upcoming episode The Wunderkind show up in the form of magazine covers.
- The name of the mysterious narrator Rodman Edwards is likely a homage to Rodman Edward Serling, aka Rod Serling, creator of the original Twilight Zone series and narrator of the series' episodes.
- Rodman Edwards seemingly references the events of the episodes The Arrival and Twenty-Two. Early on in the podcast he mentions having explored the mysteries of Global Airlines Flight 107 from Buffalo and Transeast Airlines Flight 22 from Miami Beach.
- Among the items from the crashed flight which wash up on the shore, is a stuffed doll which has the appearance an face of the gremlin which menaced the flight in the original series episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet which served as inspiration for this episode.