UK airline bmi has defended a reference to “batty” prices in a new radio ad.

The airline said it meant the word to mean “crazy”, its original English definition, and had not intended to use an anti-gay Jamaican term.

It had been described by one listener as a “disgrace”.

At one point in the new radio advert, an actor says: “Barmy prices in the bmi sale! Heathrow to Nice from a batty £48 one-way, Moscow from a bonkers £199 return and Marrakech from a zany £135 return, plus lots of other vaguely loopy deals!”

PinkNews.co.uk reader Richard Smith, who uses the airline, complained to the company after hearing the advert.

He told PinkNews.co.uk: “I’m furious at bmi’s reference to their new prices being ‘batty’ on their radio adverts, which have started this week. I think it’s a disgrace they would use this word.”

A bmi spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk: “The concept of the advert was built upon the idea that bmi have got ‘crazy’ prices in the sale.

“We have used several different words to articulate this – Barmy / Zany / Bonkers etc and the word ‘Batty’ was included and used as per the definition given in the Collins World English dictionary.”

Collins defines ‘batty’ as ‘insane; crazy; odd; eccentric’.

The term ‘batty boy’ is derived from the Jamaican Patois term for ‘bottom’ and although partially re-appropriated by the gay community, ‘batty’ and ‘batty boy’ are often considered derogatory.

But the origin of the word used in English to describe someone who is mad is thought to come from the idea that someone may have ‘bats in their belfry’, equating a bell tower with a person’s head.

This phrase is believed to have originated in the US in the late 19th century and so pre-dates ‘batty boy’, which only rose to some prominence in the UK after the Second World War.

Last year, Clinton Cards apologised and withdrew a card which featured a character called ‘Batty Boy’.

On the card, Batman is joined by a man in a pink costume labelled ‘Batty Boy’ and saying: “Ooh! Love the suit Batsy! Meeow!!”

In November of last year, Robert Peston, the BBC’s business editor, was defended by many in the gay community for using the established term “Queer Street” to describe financial dire straits.

He described accusations that his use of the term was homophobic as “bonkers”.