Gordon Brown sparked a mutiny on a British Airways flight after he was blamed for an attempt to downgrade a heavily pregnant woman and Red Cross doctor into more cramped seats.
The extraordinary scenes - dubbed Mutiny On The Brown-ty - unfolded on a flight from Abu Dhabi to London, when passengers lost their seats before the former Prime Minister's six-strong entourage got on board.
It prompted an angry war of words with an 'aggressive' Brown aide, and led to a formal complaint to BA and an offer of compensation described as 'derisory' by those involved.
'Mutiny on the Brown-ty': Gordon Brown on the flight from Abu Dhabi to London. He sparked a mutiny on the BA plane after he was blamed for an attempt to downgrade a heavily pregnant woman and Red Cross doctor into more cramped seats. When this snap was taken, his aide Kirsty McNeill (left) became 'aggressive'
The dispute flared when passengers were told they would have to move to a lower class of seats because of a sudden 'overbooking' problem.
When they checked in at Oman, where the flight originated, some of those in business class were told they would have to switch to premium economy, some in premium economy moved to regular economy - and an unlucky few in economy were kicked off the plane altogether.
The seven-months-pregnant woman, who had bought a £700 premium ticket to secure extra legroom, refused to budge, but her husband was persuaded to shift to economy. The doctor reluctantly agreed to be moved from business.
'I blame BA more than Brown, but [ex-PM's aide] Ms McNeill was seriously unpleasant'
During the first, hour-long leg from Oman to Abu Dhabi, the displaced passengers stared resentfully at the six empty seats in business class, known as Club World by BA.
At Abu Dhabi they were livid to see Mr Brown board the plane with his team and take up the £3,000-a-head places.
The passengers immediately concluded that they had been 'bumped' to make way for Mr Brown, a suggestion the airline strongly denies.
Infuriated, the pregnant woman approached Mr Brown and his aide, Kirsty McNeill, and took a picture of the pair on her mobile, prompting a furious response.
'Ms McNeill was seriously aggressive,' said the woman, a high-powered City financier who does not want to be identified. 'She came over and said, "Why are you taking a photo of Gordon?''
'I said, "I have no interest in Gordon but I have a problem with BA as I suspect we have all been downgraded and messed around because of his and your arrival on this plane."
'She said, "You wouldn't like it if someone took a photo of you while you were asleep."
'Aggressive': Kirsty McNeill (above) is said to have asked the pregnant woman: 'Why are you taking a photo of Gordon? You wouldn't like it if someone took a photo of you while you were asleep'
'I responded that if I were the ex-Prime Minister I would be used to people taking my picture and no, I wouldn't be bothered if someone took my photo while I was asleep.'
The pregnant woman was backed up in the row by the doctor, who was returning to the UK after working for the Red Cross in Oman.
'At 6ft 5in, he also needed the legroom,' she said. 'He was livid, asking Ms McNeill when they had booked their tickets, why it was necessary for all of them to be travelling business - and if it was being paid for by the taxpayer.
'At that point, I think Ms McNeill regretted starting the argument.'
The woman lodged an official complaint to BA over the incident. She has received an offer of £75 compensation each for her and her husband, a gesture she dismisses as 'derisory' given that she was separated from her husband for the ten-hour flight.
'We had paid for premium economy but there were plenty of business-class passengers downgraded to premium economy and a number of economy passengers who were knocked off the flight altogether,' she said.
'I blame BA more than Brown, but Ms McNeill was seriously unpleasant.'
Mr Brown was travelling back from Abu Dhabi after giving a lecture to students at the New York University campus in the country.
The former PM has been appointed by the university as a £70,000-a-year 'distinguished global leader in residence'.
Glaswegian Ms McNeill, 30, a former student activist who once heckled Tony Blair, calling him 'Thatcher in disguise', acquired a fiery reputation when she worked as Mr Brown's aide and speechwriter in Downing Street.
She has remained close to Mr Brown since he left No 10, frequently staying at his North Queensferry home to help him with his projects.
BA and Mr Brown's office yesterday joined forces to try to limit the embarrassment.
A spokeswoman for the airline said Mr Brown's arrival on the flight was a coincidence, and he had been unfairly blamed by the mutinous passengers.
'The situation had absolutely nothing to do with Gordon Brown,' she said. 'We have apologised to [the complainant] and we have offered to pay compensation.
'It is very rare for a customer not to be able to travel in the cabin that they have booked and we are extremely sorry that this happened on this flight. Gordon Brown and his party were booked in advance and were not involved in any way.'
Mr Brown's office was contacted on Friday. Yesterday afternoon, his spokeswoman sent a text message saying 'I assume you have read the BA statement and are now not running the story', making it clear that BA and the former PM's office had been in discussions.
She released a statement that said: 'As BA has made clear, the arrangements were nothing to do with Mr Brown, who had booked his flight and seats well in advance and made no requests for - nor received - any special treatment.
'As BA will confirm, all questions about bookings, overbookings and allocations of seats are not - and could not be - a matter for Mr Brown but for British Airways.'
Mr Brown declares his New York University appointment on the MPs' register of interests but says he receives no money personally. His fee goes to pay for staff in his office.
The university covers the cost of his air fares but the British taxpayer meets the costs of his security detail.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... Class.html