BA slip causes jumbo panic

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The Independent Online
IMAGINE THE scene: you've just lifted the lid from your inflight dinner when, over the intercom, comes an announcement you hoped never to hear - your plane is about to crash into the sea.

As you assume the brace position, people around you are going mad with panic, struggling to put on their life-jackets, dinner trays thrown aside in the mayhem. It's not what you want half way across the Atlantic at 35,000ft.

It is only then, with panic turning to hysteria, that the stewardess announces there has been a mistake The announcement was broadcast by accident; the plane is not going to crash after all. Sorry.

British Airways last night reiterated its apologies to passengers on board Saturday's flight BA286 from San Francisco after it "inadvertently" played a pre-recorded emergency announcement.

"To be told you're about to die is not a pleasant experience," said passenger Lloyd Pople, displaying an admirable talent for understatement. "Everyone looked up for a stewardess but they looked shocked. Then everyone turned to their neighbour as the full horror of the announcement sank in."

Some passengers became so distressed that staff had to call for the help of a doctor, presumably one who was not particularly distressed at the prospect of crash-landing in the sea. Two elderly passengers suffered anxiety attacks.

BA said last night that its staff had been quick to reassure the 391 passengers on the Heathrow-bound Boeing 747 that the announcement had been an error. Fifteen minutes later the captain apologised over the intercom.

"We realise how distressing this was for our passengers and apologise to them," said a BA spokeswoman.

"Clearly this should not have happened. We are treating the matter seriously and an investigation is under way to establish the cause."