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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

British Airways apologises after 77-hour Orlando to London 'plane journey from hell'

BA flight 2036 usually takes eight hours

The usual eight-hour BA2036 Orlando to Heathrow flight took 77 hours.  EPA
The usual eight-hour BA2036 Orlando to Heathrow flight took 77 hours.  EPA

British Airways has apologised to passengers whose dream family holidays to Orlando turned into a nightmare as they endured a 77-hour ordeal on the return flight to London's Gatwick airport.

BA flight 2036 usually takes eight hours and it was due to take off at 7.25pm local time (4.25am UAE time on Friday) on Thursday, but passengers didn't land in the UK until Sunday.

The stranded passengers said they were treated "inhumanely" by the airline.

The airline said it "appreciated that this was an exhausting and frustrating experience" for the more than 200 passengers on board and said sorry for the "long delay".

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One family, who told the BBC that they spent £11,000 on the holiday to Florida, accused British Airways of "failing their passengers when they needed help most".

"The passengers were treated inhumanely, Sarah Wilson told the BBC. "All we wanted was some food and drink, somewhere to sleep and to be kept informed — and they failed on all counts no matter what they claim."

Passengers initially waited for four hours in Orlando for a technical fault on the plane to be repaired. They were told to disembark and were taken by bus to a nearby hotel.

The flight eventually left for Gatwick at 1am on Saturday but it was diverted to New York's JFK airport. Passengers told the BBC that a BA representative didn't arrive until 6pm and due to the New York Marathon, no hotel room was available. So they were forced to stay in the terminal.

Holidaymakers posted pictures of the scenes on social media:

"Children were sleeping on floors in JFK's Terminal 7 but my husband found a hotel in Queens for us to sleep for a few hours but we paid ourselves," Ms Wilson told the BBC.

"It was the journey from hell when it was supposed to be a holiday on a lifetime that we'd saved up for years to go on."

A new plane was sent to New York and that flight eventually took off on Saturday evening. Passengers on BA2036 finally arrived in the UK on Sunday morning.