Barry and Izzy Sim tried to board the plane from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday with their baby son but they were turned away because only one seat was available.
The dejected family booked on to an alternative KLM flight with no idea of their incredible escape.
After hearing of the crash, Mr Sim told the BBC: “You get this sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. We started getting butterflies. Your heartbeat starts going.”
Mr Sim, reportedly from Methlick in Aberdeenshire, said he was “philosophical” about continuing to “go about your life” and believed they should take the KLM flight as planned despite his wife's misgivings.
“In my mind, lightning never strikes twice in the same place so I am still philosophical that you get on the flight and you go about your life,” he said.
“I know my wife doesn't feel like that. Probably the last thing she wants to do now is fly, especially to Kuala Lumpur.”
Mrs Sim said she and her family were “very loyal” to Malaysia Airlines, which was still struggling to recover from the disappearance of MH370 in March before the latest tragedy.
“There must have been someone watching over us and saying 'You must not get on that flight',” she told the BBC.
"At this moment we are so glad to be on that KLM flight rather than that Malaysia Airlines flight."
Other people on board were not so lucky and at least one crew member was believed to have been moved on to the flight at the last minute.
Sanjid Singh, an air steward, was only on the doomed jet because he agreed to a rota swap, the Malaysian Insider reported.
It said that in a "bizarre twist of fate" Mr Singh's wife escaped death on flight MH370 131 days ago because she too organised a shift change.
Nine Britons, 154 Dutch, 27 Australians, 38 Malaysians, 23 US citizens and 80 children were among those on board Boeing 777-200 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
None of the 298 and crew survived the crash, near the town of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine, which has seen fierce fighting between separatist militias and government troops.
Both pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government denied shooting the aircraft down after US authorities said intelligence analysis showed it had been hit by a surface-to-air missile.
Family hit by second Malaysia Airlines tragedy
An Australian woman who lost her brother in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has learned that her stepdaughter was on the Malaysia Airlines flight shot down over Ukraine.
Kaylene Mann's brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows were on Flight 370 when it vanished in March. On Friday, she found out that her stepdaughter, Maree Rizk, was killed on board Flight 17 when it crashed in Ukraine.
Ms Mann's other brother Greg Burrows said news of the second tragedy to hit the family has "ripped our guts again".
Ms Rizk and her husband Albert were returning home to Melbourne from a four-week European holiday.
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