Ryan Weaver (Ray Liotta) is arrested in New York City in connection to a series of murders that he says he did not commit. Even though police lieutenant Aldo Hines (Héctor Elizondo) at one point broke protocol during the arrest (which later enraged Weaver), the authorities have enough hard evidence to have Weaver transported to Los Angeles to face trial. He and another prisoner, Stubbs (Brendan Gleeson), are escorted by four US marshals on a Boeing 747-200 on a commercial flight. Even though it is Christmas Eve, the 747 is nearly empty, with only eleven people on board.