British Airways apologized today for an error that left passengers on board a flight from Miami to London in a state of panic and shock.
Passengers traveling on British Airways Flight 206 were about three hours into their flight early Friday morning when an announcement warned them to brace themselves for an emergency water landing because the plane was about to go down.
“This is an emergency. We will shortly be making an emergency landing on water,” the taped message said, played at around 3 a.m. on the overnight flight.
The cabin erupted in panic as startled passengers woke to the announcement and feared for their lives.
“My wife was crying and passengers were screaming,” a passenger from Scotland told The Telegraph. “I thought we were going to die.”
The crew played a second announcement a minute later, however, telling passengers to ignore the warning.
In reality, the plane was cruising safely at an altitude of 35,000 feet and halfway from Miami to London’s Heathrow Airport at the time.
The flight continued safely to London, where the disembarking passengers were met by British Airways representatives handing out letters apologizing for the error.
The airline blamed the scare on a pre-recorded emergency announcement that was activated in error, according to the Daily Mail. It was unclear whether the announcement resulted from human error, or a computer malfunction.
“The cabin crew canceled the announcement immediately and sought to reassure customers that the flight was operating normally. We apologize to customers for causing them undue concern,” the company said in a statement.
The incident is the second time in two years that an emergency warning has mistakenly gone off on a British Airways flight.
In August 2010, 275 passengers onboard a British Airways flight from London to Hong Kong were jarred by a similar message announcing, “We may shortly need to make an emergency landing on water.”
In that case, again, crew members quickly issued another message saying the warning was in error, and the airline later issued a statement of apology.
The flight had been safely passing over the North Sea at the time of the announcement.