She overhead the situation involving the two women, who Benson said mentioned they were married. Flight attendants and pilots told the women that someone had vomited in that area on a previous flight and the residue had stayed on the seat overnight, Benson said.
The crew attempted to undergo a quick cleanup before boarding passengers but weren’t able to do a thorough wash, Benson said, who recalled there was vomit residue and foul smell pungent enough for her to smell. The cabin crew had used coffee grinds in the seat pouch and sprayed perfume to mask the smell, but Benson said the “clearly upset” passengers pointed out to a flight attendant that the seat and seat belt were wet.
“They definitely attempted to clean it up,” Benson told The Washington Post.
The attendant told them repeatedly that there was nothing that could be done since the flight was full, and after several minutes of arguing, the passengers were given blankets and wipes, Benson said. They attempted to clean the area themselves, but the seats were still wet.
Benson noted the women said they didn’t want to sit on a wet seat for the duration of the 4-hour-and-25-minute flight.
When they were seated, however, the pilot arrived to tell the women that they had been rude to the flight attendant and should leave the plane on their own, pay for their own new flights, “or they would be escorted off the plane by security and placed on a no-fly list.”
Benson said that there was no yelling involved and that the incident was barely audible to those who weren’t in close proximity to the parties involved. The male passenger in the same row, who said he was a police officer, was helping interpret the flight crew’s French, as the women didn’t speak the language.
Security eventually came down to the aisle and escorted the two ladies off the plane.
Air Canada said in a statement that their operating procedures were not followed correctly and it is still reviewing the matter on an internal basis.
“We are reviewing this serious matter internally and have followed up with the customers directly as our operating procedures were not followed correctly in this instance. This includes apologizing to these customers, as they clearly did not receive the standard of care to which they were entitled and addressing their concerns. We remain in contact with them about this matter,” the airline said in a statement.
Benson said she detailed the incident in an Air Canada survey, but has not heard from the airline herself.
The two passengers were not identified, and it’s unclear whether they were put on the airline’s no-fly list or received a refund.
Passengers have noted that airlines have struggled with cleanliness amid labor shortages and pandemic-cleaning procedures dropping. With less cleaning staff and more flight demand, crews sometimes only have minutes to clean before the next flight after passengers deplane. CNN reported a passengers finding a blood-soaked floor in July, and a recent Delta flight returned to Atlanta for “diarrhea all the way through the airplane,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Benson’s original post has been shared several thousand times on Facebook and X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. She also wrote a separate post Monday night stating she “won’t be happy until I know there was more than an apology.”
She said this won’t necessarily affect her decision to fly with Air Canada in the future, as she lives in a remote area and the air carrier is one of the few, if only, options to travel. But she was upset that the incident happened to begin with, and that the women’s story should be shared and adequately handled.
“I also can’t necessarily blame an entire industry over the way that particular crew handled the situation,” Benson said.