Catherine Moreau was enjoying her flight back to Montreal from her beach getaway in the Dominican Republic when she felt something brushing up against her leg.
She told CBC News, a Canadian TV station, that she thought it was a wire, but when she brushed it away it started tickling her again.
“That’s when I noticed the tarantula,” she said. “I hit it to get it off before it bit.”
The tarantula that climbed on her was one of two on the Montreal-bound Air Transat flight on April 18, the airline and union representing flight attendants confirmed to CBC News.
According to Moreau, her 11-year-old daughter suffered from shock from the incident and is now having nightmares. She said that after she brushed the hairy arachnid off her body, it hid under her daughter’s luggage.
“It took a long time from when we screamed to get a bag to put it in,” she said.
CBC News reported that passengers stood on their seats after learning there were eight-legged critters on their flight.
Julie Roberts, vice-president of Air Transat's flight attendant union, said the Air Transat flight attendants worked to calm down passengers and asked them to put on their shoes and cover their ankles.
"They gave first aid to the person who said that a spider climbed [her] legs," she said.
Debbie Cabana, a spokeswoman for the airline, acknowledged the incident and passengers “reacted calmly.”
“Our cabin crew are trained to ensure the safety of our passengers at all times," she told CBC News in an email. “In the case at hand, which is an unusual and isolated event, our staff reacted promptly and efficiently.”
Étienne Normandin, an entomologist at the University of Montreal, told CBC News that the tarantula species was probably one that is commonly found in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and “easy to catch.”
He added that the spider is “aggressive, but the venom is not strong.”
Normandin said the market for live tarantulas is very lucrative and believes it may have been hidden in a passenger’s luggage for resale.
Moreau said she wants a refund from Air Transat for her family’s tickets.