British Airways Crew Plays Emergency Message By Mistake, Scaring Passengers

A British Airways flight played an emergency crash message by mistake.

August 27, 2010, 11:35 AM

Aug. 27, 2010 — -- It's an announcement that causes gut-wrenching fear for any airline passenger: prepare to make an emergency landing.

British Airways apologized today after a crew member reportedly played an emergency message by mistake, informing roughly 275 passengers aboard a Hong Kong-bound flight that they were about to make an emergency water landing .

Passenger Michelle Lord told ABC News that it was an automated announcement with a female voice telling them their 'fate.'

"Everyone was panicking," Lord said. "There [were] people who were crying and shaking. Obviously it's not the sort of thing that you hear every day so nobody knows how to react. But there was definitely a sense of panic."

The plane, which departed from London's Heathrow Airport, was reportedly flying over the North Sea at the time of the announcement.

"You know, your life kind of flashes before you and things like that," Lord said. "I didn't know whether to...see if I could use that sort of telephone thing in the back of the seat to contact my parents or whether to get my life jacket on, or...what to do next."

Soon, crew members assured passengers that the message was a mistake and that there was no cause for alarm, saying that everything would be "okay." But for Lord, that message was still unclear.

"A lot of people said, 'What's okay? what's okay? You've done this before? It's okay to stay calm? It's okay, you know, it's a false alarm?'" recounted Lord.

She eventually walked up to the stewardess and asked her what was going on. It was then that the flight attendant informed her that somebody had pressed the wrong button.

"We would like to apologize to passengers on board the flight for causing them undue distress," British Airways said in a statement today. "Our cabin crew immediately made an announcement following the message advising customers that it was an error and that the flight would continue as normal."

The company added that it was investigating to see whether the incident was caused by human error or a computer malfunction.

"For me that was quite a blunder," Lord said. "I'm not a great flyer as it is, so you know, for the remaining 11 hours of the flight, it was pretty traumatic."

Oddly enough, this sky-high snafu has happened before. According to Britain's Telegraph newspaper, a similar situation occurred last year aboard an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Paris. The crew apparently played a message in English warning passengers of turbulence, followed by another in French telling them about an imminent emergency landing. The Telegraph reports that a spokesman for the airline apologized for the incident, blaming it on a public address system glitch.

As for Lord, she said she would not allow the incident to deter her from flying again, though she realized how it could affect others.

"If it's your first time flying, [and you've] never been on a plane before, that would probably fend you off for life."

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