Newly released files show the British ambassador warned the Foreign Office that Iraqi forces had crossed the border an hour before Flight BA149 touched down in Kuwait in the early hours of August 2 1990.
However the information was never passed on to the airline, which was unable to take action to divert the flight.
Within hours of landing, the more than 300 passengers and crew had been detained by Iraqi troops, marking the start of an ordeal lasting almost five months as they were used by Saddam Hussein as “human shields” against Western attack.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said it is “unacceptable” that it has taken so long for the truth about the warning from the ambassador, Sir Michael Weston, to come out.
In a written ministerial statement, she apologised to MPs while expressing her “deepest sympathy” to those who were detained and mistreated at the hands of the Iraqis.
In an attempt to draw a line under the speculation that has surrounded Flight BA149 for decades, the Foreign Office released hundreds of pages of documents to the National Archives.
Ms Truss said they are consistent with statements made by ministers that “the government at the time did not attempt in any way to exploit the flight by any means whatever”.
However, her assurance was met with deep scepticism by some of those on board the flight, who have long believed that a group of around 10 men who were the first to disembark when it landed were special forces troops.
Passenger Barry Manners, who was a 24-year-old businessman at…