Passengers shouted and stood on their seats after a pair of tarantulas got loose on an Air Transat flight last month headed from the Dominican Republic to Canada, according to multiple reports.
Catherine Moreau felt what she thought was a wire brush against her leg while traveling from Punta Cana to Montreal on April 18. She told CBC News she looked down and saw it was actually a tarantula. Afraid it would bite her, she smacked it off her leg.
The spider was one of two to terrorize passengers on the flight. Moreau's husband managed to capture the first tarantula, which hid under their daughter's luggage.
"My husband managed to catch the spider in a plastic container, but it wriggled its legs out," Moreau told Radio-Canada. "My daughter was crying. She was in shock."
The second was captured by a federal agent once the plane landed at Trudeau Airport in Montreal, according to CBC News.
Moreau is asking Air Transat to partially reimburse her family's airfare.
Air Transat confirmed a pair of spiders got loose during the flight and called it an "extraordinary and isolated event," in an email to The Guardian.
"Passengers who have seen the spiders (we have no confirmation of the species) were certainly surprised, but according to our flight report, they reacted calmly," a spokesperson for the airliner said.
Etinne Normandin, an entomologist at the University of Montreal, told CBC News the spider was likely a Phormictopus cancerides, a common tarantula in the Dominican Republic that is easy to catch. He said that although the spiders are aggressive, their venom isn't strong.
It was not clear where the spiders came from, though Normandin said they may have been tucked away in someone's luggage with a goal to sell the spiders in Canada.
"The market for live tarantulas is very lucrative," he told CBC News.
The union for Air Transat flight attendants said there were no procedures in place to deal with a situation like spiders loose on a flight. A representative told The Guardian recommendations for a procedure were made after last month's flight.
Cox Media Group