BA Investigates Alarming Cabin Message

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British Airways is investigating how an automated message came to be played on Aug. 24 over the intercom of an otherwise healthy in-flight 747, telling all 275 passengers the jet was going to ditch. The message, delivered by what a British tabloid called a "calm female voice," said (according to multiple other sources), "This is an emergency. We may shortly need to make an emergency landing on water." The aircraft was out of Heathrow for Hong Kong and over the North Sea at the time. As passengers began to absorb and perhaps imaginatively elaborate on the message, cabin crew "immediately made an announcement," and advised passengers that the warning "was played in error" and "the flight would continue as normal," according to British Airways. A BA spokesman told Bloomberg News the message can be activated in a number of ways -- none of which are accessible to pilots in the cockpit.

A British Airways spokesman who spoke with The Daily Mail said the carrier was still, as of Friday, trying to determine if the mistake was of human or digital origins. And "we apologize to passengers on board the flight for causing them undue stress." Brief reports of the incident flooded media outlets Friday. British tabloid The Sun, offered quotes from passengers that included, "We all thought we were going to die" and "They said the pilot hit the wrong button because they were so close together."