British Airways passengers prepared for a possible crash into the sea after an emergency message was played in error on their flight, it was revealed today.

Travellers flying from Heathrow to Hong Kong heard the message: "This is an emergency. We may shortly need to make an emergency landing on water."

Cabin crew on the Boeing 747 reassured passengers that the message was a mistake and there was no emergency.

Michelle Lord, 32, of Preston, Lancashire, told the Sun: "People were terrified. We all thought we were going to die."

Another traveller said: "I can't think of anything worse than being told your plane's about to crash."

BA, which said the incident took place within the last seven days, explained today that the message was an automatic one that was triggered by a computer.

A BA spokesman said: "We would like to apologise to passengers on board the flight for causing them undue distress.

"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."