About 140 passengers due on a British Airways flight from Venice spent the night at the airport because cabin crew had worked their maximum hours.

They slept on the floor of Marco Polo airport without food and drink after their flight to Gatwick left with no passengers on board. BA said it could not find hotel rooms for passengers or cabin crew.

The airline is to pay compensation as a resuIt of the problem on Wednesday. The flight had been due to take off shortly after 10.30pm but was delayed because of a technical fault.

This meant the crew had already worked their maximum hours for the day, even though the pilots were able to fly the aircraft back to Gatwick.

The passengers, including a number of children, spent the night at the airport – with some suggesting that staff locked the doors and locked up their luggage, the BBC reported.

BA said: “We’re very sorry for the disruption faced by our customers and will work with them to provide compensation. We always do everything we can to avoid an overnight flight delay, but when this happens we offer hotel accommodation to those travelling with us.

“Unfortunately, due to the volume of visitors to Venice we could not secure any rooms for our customers or cabin crew. The aircraft due to operate the flight to Gatwick was delayed into Venice because of a technical fault earlier in the day.

“Unfortunately this meant that the cabin crew responsible for the safety of our customers had exceeded their available working hours, and were unable to operate the flight back to London. The two pilots were still within their hours and returned the aircraft to London.”

A replacement aircraft was sent to Venice yesterday morning to fly the passengers back to Gatwick, arriving at 1.35pm

The latest incident follows a BA aircraft flying to Oslo being forced to return to Heathrow and make an emergency landing last week after smoke was seen coming from one of its engines.