A family of five had to travel for 11 hours in a taxi to reach an airport in time after discovering that their flight had been overbooked.

Roy Ferguson, of Alford, turned up at Aberdeen international airport with his wife, two teenage children and 80-year-old mother-in-law looking forward to a holiday in Greece.

They had been due to fly to Heathrow at 6.30pm before staying overnight in London and flying from Gatwick at 7am the next day. The family were told, however, that the flight had been overbooked so they were not able to travel that day.

When Mr Ferguson, 48, complained to British Airways, staff sorted out compensation and offered to foot the bill for an all-night taxi journey to London — at a cost of £1,800 — the only option available for the family to make sure they caught their flight the next day.

He said: “The response from the check-in staff was that BA routinely overbook flights and we would be compensated for our missed flight. We explained this was not good enough as we had to be in Gatwick by 7am the following morning to catch our charter flight.

“The last passengers boarded the aircraft and we were told we would not be getting on the flight, and to go back upstairs to the check-in desk and our bags would be returned to us.

“We were very upset by this point, convinced we would not be getting our holiday after all.

“After lots of phoning around, it was established that the only way of BA getting us to London in time for our flight from Gatwick was by arranging a taxi.”

Mr Ferguson said he was shocked to find that the family would have to spend all night sitting in a car without comfortable seats. He said: “A taxi with a bench seat for three facing forward and two fold-down seats facing backwards all the way to London from Aberdeen. We made it to Gatwick with 30 minutes to spare. Exhausted, stressed, extremely sore and stiff, very unhappy with BA, but we made it.”

A BA spokeswoman said that overbooking was common practice in the airline industry and that it helped to lower prices for customers.

She said: “We are very sorry our customer and his family were unable to travel on the flight they had booked and for the frustration and inconvenience this caused them.

“It is common practice to overbook flights on certain routes where it is known that a number of customers with flexible tickets are unlikely to turn up for the flight. If all such seats were left empty it would prevent other customers from travelling on the day they wanted. The practice also keeps fares low for our customers.

“In this case, although we did all we could to seek volunteers to travel at a later date, none offered to postpone their journey.”