This Woman’s Waking Nightmare Has Us Afraid to Fall Asleep on Planes

PHOTO: Shutterstock.com

Never sleep again.

You wake up to find yourself consumed in opaque darkness. You’re cold, disoriented, and strapped into a seat. The only thing that’s readily obvious is your utter isolation. The last thing you remember is falling asleep on your flight home. And then reality reveals itself to you in sudden, terrifying clarity: You’re trapped on a plane. And no one’s coming for you.

What sounds like the grimmest corner of your mind deploying the latest innovation in travel-related anxiety dreams, was an all too real, waking nightmare for one Air Canada passenger. On June 9, Tiffani O’Brien was traveling home to Toronto from Quebec City when she fell asleep during her flight. When she woke, she found that her flight had landed hours ago and that she was now locked inside the parked, powered-down airplane.

“It’s just this sheer sense of like helplessness … You’re locked on this aircraft and you have no connection to the outside world.”

“I thought, ‘This is a nightmare. This is not happening, I’m having a bad dream, wake up Tiffani,’” said O’Brien, speaking with CTV News. “It’s just this sheer sense of like helplessness … You’re locked on this aircraft and you have no connection to the outside world.”

In a Facebook post (shared to Air Canada’s page by her friend Deanna Noel-Dale) O’Brien detailed the terrifying experience. She said that after waking up and realizing she’d been left on the plane, she contacted Noel-Dale, alerting her friend to her situation. But when she tried to switch to FaceTime, her phone battery died. O’Brien tried to charge her phone on the USB ports but there was no power on the plane. Eventually, she found her way into the cockpit where she was able to locate a flashlight. After that, she was able to open the main door. There was just one problem. She was still 40-50 feet off the ground.

O’Brien managed to get the attention of a worker at the airport driving a luggage cart who then arrived with a ladder, making it so she could finally get off the plane. O’Brien says that she was then met by Air Canada representatives who offered to get her a limo, but all she wanted to do was go home. And though the ordeal may technically be over, its effects still linger.

And then reality reveals itself to you in sudden, terrifying clarity: You’re trapped on a plane. And no one’s coming for you.

“[Ten] days later I’m still a wreck,” she wrote. “I haven’t got much sleep since the reoccurring night terrors and waking up anxious and afraid I’m alone locked up someplace dark.”

How Could This Happen?

Falling asleep, you may note, is something thousands upon thousands people do on airplanes every day. Many of those people even continue their respective slumbers once the plane touches down, but can be easily awakened by a light touch on the shoulder. O’Brien perhaps said it best in her Facebook post: “When my seat [is] an inch back or my tray down flight crew take notice but yet you missed a person still strapped into her seat and just all go on home?!?!”

Unfortunately, the official answer is that Air Canada’s still investigating.

What if This Happens to Me?

It goes without saying this is 100 percent absolutely something that passengers shouldn’t have to worry about. But now that this new, upsetting worry has emerged, you might be wondering how you can ensure that you also wake up in the middle of your own modern twist on an Edgar Allan Poe story.

There is, of course, going the Nightmare on Elm Street route and forcing yourself to stay awake. But if you’d like to catch some Zs while traveling there are a few preventative steps you can take. Before you take off, note the emergency services number in whatever country you’ll be landing in. If you find yourself trapped, make sure you contact them first and then do your best to conserve your phone battery. Additionally, always make sure you have an external battery charged and ready to go, as those USB chargers are no good to you when there’s no power running through them.