British Columbia

Blind woman abandoned on airplane

A blind woman from Vancouver Island is not sure she'll ever fly alone again after she was forgotten by flight attendants and locked in a deserted plane at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

A blind woman from Vancouver Island is not sure she'll ever fly alone again after she was forgotten by flight attendants and locked in a deserted plane at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

Jessica Cabot, of Courtenay, B.C., was on a United Airlines flight from Vancouver to Jacksonville, Fla., April 7 to join her fiancé when the plane made a scheduled stop in Chicago before dawn.

She was then supposed to be guided to her connecting flight to Florida.

The 18-year-old was born blind and this was her third time flying by herself, so she thought she was familiar with some of the routines.

"I was instructed by the flight attendant to wait until everybody else got off the plane," said Cabot, 18, in an interview with CBC News from Jacksonville.

"That's what they tell me every time so I didn't think anything of it."

She said she heard the other passengers leave and then the unmistakable sound of the aircraft door being sealed shut.

"And then, just complete silence. And I started calling out with no response."

That's when she realized she was alone, she said. She had no idea how to open the plane's door or whether that would be a safe thing to do.

Found by chance

She said she was stuck for 10 minutes, uncertain what to do, but was found by a maintenance crew that happened to enter the aircraft.

"They didn't have to be there," Cabot said. "If they hadn't, I would have been there for a very long time."

"She was terrified, she didn't know what to do," said her mother, Christine Skerratt, in Courtenay, who spoke with her daughter on the phone shortly after. 

Cabot did eventually make her connecting flight to Florida.

Her family complained about the incident to United Airlines, which gave Cabot a $250  voucher for future travel.

The airline declined a request for an interview but sent a statement.

"We apologized to Ms. Cabot for the delay in providing her an escort, and have taken action with our employees and vendors at O'Hare to ensure this does not happen again," the statement said.

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