British Airways apologized on Friday after a crew member mistakenly played an emergency message warning Hong Kong-bound passengers that the plane they were on was about to plummet from the sky and ultimately plunge into the sea.
About 275 passengers on a Tuesday flight out of London’s Heathrow Airport heard the message: “This is an emergency. We may shortly need to make an emergency landing on water,” NBC News reported.
“People were terrified, we all thought we were going to die,” passenger Michelle Lord, 32, told The Sun newspaper, which first reported the incident.
“They said the pilot hit the wrong button because they were so close together.”
“I can’t think of anything worse than being told your plane’s about to crash,” The Sun quoted another passenger as saying.
Cabin crew on the Boeing 747 quickly reassured passengers that the message was a mistake and there was no emergency, and it would in fact not plummet from the sky into the North Sea, which it was over at the time.
“We would like to apologize to passengers on board the flight for causing them undue distress,” British Airways said in a statement.
“Our cabin crew immediately made an announcement following the message advising customers that it was played in error and that the flight would continue as normal,” the airline said.
The airline is investigating the incident to determine whether it was human error or a computer glitch, British Airways said in a statement. Doubtless it has a wave of lawsuits from traumatized passengers to look forward to.
A similar incident occurred on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Paris in 2009. The cabin crew played an announcement in English warning of turbulence, followed by one in French saying the crew was preparing for an emergency landing about 20 minutes into the flight.
An Aer Lingus spokesman apologized for that incident, saying a malfunction of the public address system was to blame.
“This sort of thing happens very rarely,” the spokesman said.
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