The high-altitude gaffe Tuesday caused a chilling automated message to be broadcast in the cabin. "This is an emergency announcement," said a calm female voice, according to The Sun. "We may shortly need to make an emergency landing on water."
The Boeing 747 was over the North Sea en route to Hong Kong from Heathrow Airport at the time of the incident.
Crew members quickly recognized the mistake and rushed through the aisles attempting to placate the 275 panicked passengers. "People were terrified; we all thought we were going to die," Michelle Lord, 32, from the Northern English city of Preston, told the newspaper. "They said the pilot hit the wrong button because they were so close together."
A spokesman for the carrier told the Daily Mail that British Airways was attempting to find out if the blunder was a human or computer error. "We apologize to passengers on board the flight for causing them undue distress," he said. "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."