Hours after an Air Canada flight landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport, a passenger woke up to find herself locked in a cold, dark, and empty plane.
Earlier this month, Tiffani O’Brien was flying from Quebec City when she fell asleep reading her book on the 90-minute flight.
She said she woke up hours after her flight landed, still strapped to her seat in “freezing cold” and “pitch black” surroundings.
“As someone with an anxiety disorder as is, I [can’t] tell you how terrifying this was...I think I’m having a bad dream bc like seriously how is this happening!!?!” O’Brien wrote in a Facebook post published by her friend, Deanna Noel-Dale.
Panicking, she texted Noel-Dale for help. “I just woke up alone in plane,” said one text that O’Brien sent, according to CTV. “Omg.”
When O’Brien tried calling her friend through FaceTime, her phone suddenly died. She scrambled to find a USB port to charge her phone, but could not find a working one due to the plane being turned off.
“It’s just a sheer sense of like, helplessness, when you feel like you’re locked on this aircraft, and you have no connection to the outside world,” O’Brien said in an interview with CTV. O’Brien declined to comment to BuzzFeed News.
O’Brien said she then made her way to the cockpit and found walkie-talkie devices, which she unsuccessfully tried to operate. Finally, she found a flashlight that she used to motion for help out the windows and locate the door.
“I’m so scared that I’m gonna touch something that’s wrong, but I knew that I had to do something,” she told CTV. “And I found the flashlight, and I was so happy. That was like the best moment ever.”
She then faced another dilemma: There was no landing connecting O’Brien to the ground. She was facing a 40- to 50-foot drop to the pavement.
Desperate to get out of her predicament, O’Brien hung out the door, and started using her flashlight to motion for help by reflecting the light off the sides of the plane. Finally, she caught the attention of an employee driving a luggage cart, who helped her to the ground.
According to O’Brien’s post, representatives of Air Canada have been in contact with her since the incident. Air Canada confirmed the incident and has announced it is launching an investigation into the matter, according to the AP.
“We are still reviewing this matter so we have no additional details to share, but we have followed up with the customer and remain in contact with her,” Air Canada told the AP. The airline didn’t immediately return a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Since the incident, O’Brien wrote in the Facebook post that she hasn’t “got much sleep,” stating that she’s had “reoccurring night terrors and waking up anxious and afraid I’m alone locked up someplace dark.”
Mary F. Schiavo, a passengers’ rights attorney and former US Department of Transportation inspector general, told BuzzFeed News that what happened to O’Brien was a “big security violation.”
“The law requires the plane be secured for the night and it was not secured. She also had access to secure areas of the airport operations area,” Schiavo said.
“She could argue the airline was negligent in its securing of the plane and should have found her, and thus she is due actual damages.”
This is not the first instance of a passenger being left behind on a plane. In 2013, a Louisiana man was locked in a United Airlines plane that landed at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport after taking a nap during the flight, ABC News reported.
In another report by ABC News, a British law professor was found asleep on an Air Canada Jazz plane in a hangar at Vancouver International Airport back in 2010.
The same year, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a Michigan woman who sued Trans States Airlines on the basis of false imprisonment, after she found herself trapped in the cabin for more than three hours after the plane had landed.