Air Canada is investigating how a woman was left behind on one of its planes after she fell asleep during a flight.
Tiffani Adams said she fell asleep during her 1.5-hour flight from Quebec to Toronto on June 9 and woke up hours later, alone and still strapped into her chair. But how could a passenger have been overlooked, and could it happen in Australia?
Let’s look at what happened on the Air Canada flight
Ms Adams says she fell asleep “less than halfway” into her 90-minute flight to Toronto.
“I got super comfy reading my book, happy I scored my row all to myself,” she said on Facebook.
But Ms Adams said a few hours later, around midnight, she woke up alone on the plane, in complete darkness, with her seatbelt still buckled around her.
The plane had been parked and she could see the lights of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in the distance.
“OMG I’ve just woken up and I’m all alone on this cold, dark plane,” she texted her friend, Deanna Noel-Dale, before her phone died.
Terrified, Ms Adams said she tried charging her phone and using the “walky talky thingys” in the cockpit, but the plane’s power had been shut off.
She then found a flashlight and tried sending “SOS signals out the windows”, but wasn’t noticed by ground crew until she managed to open the cabin’s main door.
“I hang out the door trying to get the attention of ground crew … I’m where the aircrafts park overnight. There is no-one around,” she recounted.
“When I see the luggage cart driving towards me, I am literally dangling my legs out of the plane. He is in shock asking how the heck they left me on the plane. I’m wondering the same.”
What has Air Canada said?
Air Canada has confirmed the incident took place and is now investigating how Ms Adams may have been overlooked.
On Facebook, a spokesperson said they were surprised to hear the story and the airline was “very concerned”.
“We’ll take a look into it,” the spokesperson said.
Aren’t there safety or security procedures in place?
Air Canada has declined to comment on its disembarking procedures, but Ms Adams said representatives assured her there were checks in place.
“[They] say they will do an investigation because they have checks in place that should prevent people from being locked on the aircraft at night,” she said.
But she wondered how she could have gone unnoticed, with her tray table down and her seat reclined about “an inch back”.
What about in Australia?
In Australia, all cabin crew safety procedures are overseen by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
“Virtually everything that you see the crew go through is set out in a subsection of their operations manual about cabin crew procedures,” CASA spokesperson Peter Gibson said.
“It sets out the safety briefing and when they walk up and down the aisle looking to make sure you’ve got your seatbelt on and telling you to put your tray table up if you’ve got it down.”
But Mr Gibson said there were no specific requirements around checking that all passengers had left the plane.
“[The safety procedure] is likely to include a seat check, but in terms of what’s required, there’s nothing under our rules,” he said.
“We’re purely the safety of aviation flight — making sure the pilots are licensed and properly trained, making sure the aircrafts are certified to the right standards, making sure they’re flown to the right standards and maintained appropriately.”
A spokesperson for the Australian Border Force (ABF) also said it was “the responsibility of individual airlines to ensure passengers physically depart their aircraft on arrival into Australia”.
Virgin Australia said its cabin crew were required to do a final, thorough check of each plane at the end of every flight.
“After every landing, as part of their post-flight duties, Virgin Australia cabin crew are required to check the lavatories, open all overhead lockers and walk through the cabin to ensure that no luggage, packages and passengers are still onboard the aircraft,” a spokesperson said.
Qantas and Jetstar declined to comment.