With no news of unexpected vermin on Air India planes for months, it looked like the airline was at the top of its game and winning the standoff with the unwanted creatures. But a recent incident suggests that the little miscreants aren’t quite done with the game of hide-and-seek.
On April 21, Air India flight AI 822 was delayed on its first leg between the cities of Srinagar and Jammu in northern India. A rat was found before takeoff and had to be removed so the plane could take off safely.
Srinagar and Jammu are separated by an air distance of about 150 km. As such, it’s a very short hop for an Airbus A320, averaging around 30-40 minutes. The flight’s scheduled departure time is 2:15 p.m., but according to FlightRadar24.comthe plane left Srinagar at 4:08 p.m.
The little creature didn’t realize it had enough power, much to the chagrin of the AI and the passengers that day, to force the plane to the ground for nearly four times the actual flight time. Naturally, this affected the second leg of the flight from Jammu to New Delhi, which took off at 5:31 p.m. instead of the scheduled 3:45 p.m.
The A320 was delayed almost 2 hours. Photo: Getty images
Not the first time
Thursday’s rat appeared to have been inspired by some members of his community who chose to bypass the ticket-buying process altogether to leave town in the past.
In 2019, an Air India flight from Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam was delayed for 12 hours when someone spotted a rat on the plane. In 2016, another AI flight, a Dreamliner heading from Melbourne to New Delhi, had to be diverted to Singapore because, well, another rat popped in unexpectedly.
But this is not a smear campaign against the rodent community. Ants, bats and even snakes were attracted by the rush to board a flight to distant destinations for free.
In September 2021, a group of ants decided to sneak into London by silently boarding an Air India 787 plane in New Delhi. Tiny as they were, a hawk-eyed individual managed to spot them, and the AI had to change planes for its trip to LHR.
Not so long ago, passengers on an AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau witnessed a failed attempt by a snake trying to hide in an overhead compartment. The flight was diverted to Kuching.
Almost a year ago, an Air India 777 en route to Newark was forced to return to Delhi when a bat decided to get a little too comfortable by stretching its wings in the cabin.
However, we are not trying to slander the entire animal kingdom. There are well-meaning, law-abiding four-legged creatures (with super-rich owners) who, in fact, pay for the entire business class cabin to travel in style.
Last year, a furry Maltese had the entire J-class cabin booked by his keen owner on an Air India flight from Mumbai to Chennai. A single business class seat on this relatively short flight costs over ₹18,000 (about $250). Booking an entire business class cabin on the A320 couldn’t have been cheap.
There are good reasons for flights to be delayed or diverted in such situations. Rodents and other animals can cause invisible damage such as chewing through cables, wires, insulation and other objects, seriously compromising flight safety. Fumigation is often necessary to remove animals, but not before causing delays and loss of time and revenue.
But for a more concrete solution, we can only suggest that airlines come up with, well, a better mousetrap!
What do you think of the incident? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
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