A Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman said the teenager was “exceptionally lucky” to have survived the flight
The mother of a Somali teenager who survived a US flight in a wheel well has told the BBC of her shock and relief to discover he is alive.
Ubah Mohamed Abdullahi, who lives in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, says it was the first news she had heard about her “lost son” for six years.
Divorced from his father, she has not been in contact with the family since they moved to the US in 2008.
The boy’s father said the 16-year-old had been trying to return to Somalia.
Yahya Abdi survived lack of oxygen and freezing temperatures on a five-hour flight from California to Hawaii.
Ms Abdullahi said that both her brother and father who live in Europe had phoned to tell her about her son Yahya’s lucky escape.
“My father watched the news from the TV and saw the pictures of my son, and then he called me and told me that he had seen my son on news channels,” she told the BBC Somali service.
“Thank God, now he is safe and in a good condition.”
Talking on the phone from a refugee camp in Sheed Dheer where she has lived since 2008, Ms Abdullahi said she was shocked that her son could have put himself in such danger.
BBC Somali’s Abdifitah Ibrahim Cagayare says in the middle of the interview Ms Abdullahi broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.
She said that since her two sons and daughter went to the US in 2008 with her ex-husband she had been desperately trying to get in touch with them.
“We are divorced… I called him [her ex-husband] several times through his relatives and he refused to talk to me,” she said.
“I want to hear the voice of my children, I want to see them, please help me and guide me to that, please,” the mother wept.
After Yahya Abdi was found disorientated on the runway in Maui on Sunday, he reportedly told investigators he had been in an argument at home and then went to the airport, choosing the aircraft nearest to the fence.
In an interview with US broadcaster Voice of America, the boy’s father, Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi, said “Allah had saved” his son.
He said his son was “always talking about going back to Africa” and since the family came to the US, the boy had been bothered by “education problems”.
Since 1991 Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, rival politicians and Islamist militants battle for control – a situation that has allowed lawlessness and piracy to flourish.
The years of anarchy and drought have forced many Somalis to seek sanctuary elsewhere but since a UN-backed government was installed in 2012, a small measure of stability has returned to some areas of the country.