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British Airways apologizes for 'Discover the Indian Ocean' ad

March 28, 2014 at 2:05 PM ET

British Airways is withdrawing an ill-timed advertising campaign featuring an underwater background and the tag line: “Escape the commute and discover the Indian Ocean.”

A commuter spotted the image on the London Underground on Wednesday and sent out a tweet calling it “unfortunate advertising” with the hashtag “#timing.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for Beijing on March 8 and never arrived. The plane, which remains missing, was carrying 239 passengers and crew. Officials now believe the Boeing 777 crashed into the Indian Ocean.

“I didn't manage to snap a picture in time as I went past it until I saw it again the next day,” Alan Milford, a principal software engineer for AOL Platforms, told NBC News. He tweeted a photo of the unfortunate ad, which went viral, and also posted it on Facebook with a request that anyone who uses it "donate to charity."

On Thursday, British Airways tweeted that its “Indian Ocean advert contained pre-scheduled content that we recognise is inappropriate at this time. We’re sorry for any offence caused.”

“My take was that it was just a very unfortunately timed ad,” said Milford. “It was probably produced months ago and they clearly didn't mean any offence by it.”

The search for the missing jet in the Indian Ocean has now shifted 700 miles to the northeast.

British Airways sent a statement to NBC News on Friday saying it has decided to cancel the Indian Ocean campaign.

“We are very sorry for any offence caused, and the advertising is being withdrawn. This campaign was planned some months ago and we recognise that its appearance at this time is inappropriate.”

An airline spokesperson said the advertisements were planned for the UK only and were “not scheduled to appear anywhere else in the world.”

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