Passenger Falls Asleep on Flight, Winds Up Stranded on the Tarmac

A passenger on Air Canada’s flight AC1799 from Quebec City to Toronto’s Pearson airport fell asleep on Sunday, June 9th. She kept sleeping through touch down, gate arrival, and all the other customers getting off the plane. She says that when she woke up, the plane had been towed away from the gate to be parked overnight. She was in a totally dark aircraft with no way off.

Her cell phone was out of battery and she couldn’t call for help. She opened the aircraft’s door but it was too treacherous a drop onto concrete to make it. Ultimately she flagged down a worker driving a baggage cart who went for help.

I was so overjoyed when I found a flashlight in the cockpit and I’m making some flashy sos signals out the windows hoping someone sees me.

Finally now that I have light I’m determined to unlock the door and save myself…felt like a champ when I got main door open (found all 3 latches w my lifesaver of a flashlight and open the door all the way

Now I’m facing a 40-50ft drop to the pavement below 😬 I hang out the door trying to get the attention of ground crew I can see Pearson’s lights but too far away I’m where the aircrafts park overnight there is no one around..

…I’m hanging out the door reflecting the flashlight off the side of the plane (figuring reflective exterior will catch someone’s attention in the distance) not sure how much time has passed bc no phone no nothing

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. …Anyway the guy had the ladder dock and I jumped to safety before he was even a foot from the door..the Air Canada cars pull up drive me up to Pearson where I’m met by another Air Canada rep asking if I’m ok and would I like a limo and hotel.

Copyright: ronniechua / 123RF Stock Photo

One Mile at a Time confirms some elements of the story which is posted to Air Canada’s Facebook page, and the airline reports the story is accurate.

I’ve been known to doze on on the ground during long waits to push back and taxi, but I’m always rustled away as we take off. I’ve never slept past touchdown so this is hard for me to imagine, but there are heavy sleepers out there. Goodness knows I’ve passed my stop on DC’s metro, but just because I was focused working never because I had fallen asleep.

This is a huge failure across the board. Everyone got off the plane, but no one noticed a passenger still seated – asleep. The crew left and didn’t notice. The plane was moved and no one noticed.

It’s hard to imagine the feeling of helplessness, being trapped in the dark with no way to contact anyone. What would you have done?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. There have been a few times — when I’ve been really tired — when I’ve slept through either take-off or landing, so I get that. I definitely admire the woman’s ingenuity (figuring out how to open the door, finding the flashlight, shining the light on the reflective surface of the plane for maximum effect, etc.) and I’m not sure I would have been so creative. However, as an AvGeek, I’m also not sure I would have been bothered being locked in a plane overnight. Assuming that I wasn’t worried that someone would be worried about me, and assuming that it wasn’t freezing cold, I might have just had fun exploring the plane, lol.

  2. Air Canada is an absolute disaster of an airline and employees are driven by a culture of non-ownership. I would be willing to gamble some AC employees actually saw her asleep and ignored her as it wasn’t their job

    AC also did this before a few years ago. Same thing.

  3. Sometimes, things happen. Would you want your airfares to go up even 50 cents to add people so this can’t ever happen? How about the hundred other things that could go wrong but don’t threaten anyone?

  4. @Jack

    Intrigued to know why more crew are needed and why airfares would need to go up to prevent this happening again?

  5. Phone totally dead, unable to call. So passed out she was unaware the plane landed. This woman should not be traveling.

  6. Because in our society, it has to be SOMEONE’S job! lol
    Seriously, we will have to have a procedural review, then three boards will have to view and have meetings about the results, we will have public hearings and determine that a procedure SHOULD be put in place, we will have to modify handbooks, put it on a checklist ( it is the entire crew’s responsibility to sign off on) and print, distribute and have additional training for. We would hire trainers, more supervisors, checklist trackers, etc. and it WOULD cost more for tickets in the long run.
    My big question is what if this had been an unaccompanied minor?
    What if it was a terrorist or someone with terrorist ideas/bad intentions? perhaps someone who KNEW how to operate the plane? say like the 911 terrorists when they were in training? js

  7. Seen this happen with kids on elementary school buses. But then I have slept through fire alarm drills in college dorm. Flight attendants need to walk the plane BEFORE ,they exit the plane

  8. I slept through an entire flight. DCA to DFW, the 3rd leg of a long award trip that started 18 hours earlier in London. It departed at 8:05 pm, so no dinner on the plane. Ate well in the terminal before boarding. Seated up front, so reasonably comfortable seat. Enjoyed the spectacle during the boarding process as they walked everyone back so they could offboard a whole family of 4 that somehow managed to get onto the wrong flight. One of his kids was mocking his dad about it the whole time and the flight attendant made an announcement for the rest of the flight that we ARE going to DFW, just in case.

    Anyway, finished boarding, pushback, takeoff, recline, and I promptly fall asleep. The flight attendant wakes me up at some point to ask if I want snacks. I decline, and as I’m falling back asleep I hear a conversation between her and one of the other flight attendants who apparently looked up my itinerary and they seemed to conclude that I probably didn’t want to be awakened again. That was it. Next thing I know, we’re at the gate, everyone standing in the aisle waiting for the door to open. Shortest 3 hour flight ever. I was still reclined too, so apparently nobody bothered to wake me to enforce the landing procedures…. or they did, and I ignored them and went back to sleep and forgot all about it. Anything’s possible.

  9. Umm, “40-50 foot drop to the pavement”? Was she on the upper deck of one of the many A380s Air Canada operates from Quebec City to Toronto?

    Best case that was an A320 and she’d have 11 feet or so to drop.

  10. Rouge FAs get paid minimum wage, no wonder they book it outta there as fast as they can and don’t care.

  11. To anyone wondering how this could happen or how a ticket increase would prevent it- the crews are simply worked way, way to hard. Hiring more would alleviate the load. You know how crappy going through customs and security is? Now do that 3 times during a 14 hour work day, and that’s the easiest part…. not to mention they stop getting paid the moment the doors open. Not a healthy situation.

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