Rats on a Plane! Air India Plane Turns Back — and Still Serves Passengers a Meal…

Last week a Delta flight attendant was gettin’ sick and tired of cats on a plane. Now it rats and Air India.

An Air India Boeing 787 headed from Mumbai to London turned around six hours into flight “after a cabin crew member spotted a rat on board.”

“AI 131 Mumbai to London returned to Mumbai today due to suspected rat sighting. Though the presence of the rodent was not confirmed but keeping passenger safety in mind, the aircraft was brought back. Air India gives utmost importance to safety. Our engineering team is investigating the incident. A standby aircraft was made available to fly the passengers to London. The aircraft with the suspected rodent will be fumigated as per procedure in such cases of rodent sighting,” said the airline spokesperson.

It’s not clear what took them so long to make the determination to turn around since they first spotted the ran when the plane “was in the Tehran airspace” and AI flight 131 is scheduled at just under 10 hours. It sounds as though the rat was spotted, the plane was more than halfway to London, and then it turned all the way back around.

Regardless of whether the reported timeline makes sense, it’s not obvious why the only option was a full return to Mumbai. If there were safety concerns continuing the journey with a rat onboard, the diversion either took almost as long or longer than completing the flight.

It’s not the first Air India rat incident this year. And last year an Air India Airbus A321 was grounded in Delhi after rats ran riot.

While rats don’t do as much damage to Air India’s planes as passenger buses, Air India should probably follow LAX’s lead and always have the Orkin man on hand.

Rats usually get onto planes via catering trucks. Breakfast was served after the flight’s 7 a.m. departure, and lunch was served after the flight turned back to Mumbai.

This never gets old…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I recommend that Air India brings cats on to take care of the rats. And then, they bring bats to turn it into a bad Dr. Seuss novel.

  2. I thought rats were sacred in India. It should have been seen as a sign of good luck. It seems ridiculous to turn the plane around and waste jet fuel because of one rat. They simply need to capture it and flush it down the toilet.

  3. It would have made sense to land in Tehran or Istanbul and throw the damn rat off the aircraft plus lower the boom on the caterers.

  4. My only experience with Air India was both unintentional and horrifying. I was with two business associates in Hannover, Germany and we were supposed to meet up with another business associate in New Delhi the next day. He was flying from the U.S. to Delhi via Amsterdam on KLM and we were supposed to fly from Hannover to Frankfurt and on to Delhi via Lufthansa. Unfortunately, all of northern Europe was fogged-in, our flights were cancelled and we had no way to contact our associate in Amsterdam. The ticket agent in Hannover told us if the fog lifted by noon, we could fly to Paris and catch an Air France flight to Delhi. It would arrive at 6:30 the next morning and we would hopefully meet up with our associate in Delhi.

    The fog lifted and we flew to Paris. As soon as we landed, we inquired about the late afternoon Air France flight to Delhi. To our surprise, there was no Air France flight to Delhi, instead it was a co-share with Air India and Air India was the carrier for that day’s flight! We were not happy, as Air India was an airline we always avoided. At this point, it was too late to do anything else. We soldiered on and boarded the Air India 747. Our seats were upstairs in business class, but it looked more like scavenger class! The seats were almost threadbare and the ceiling panels were held up by a variety of mismatched screws. We sat in our seats and prepared for take-off. As the plane picked up speed going down the runway, the cabin filled with jet fuel fumes. With gallows humor, someone said “Don’t anyone even think about smoking!” The cabin crew didn’t seem phased by the fumes and after about a half hour in the air, the fumes dissipated. Shortly after the fumes were gone, the flight attendants served some sort of undrinkable fruit beverage followed by an absolutely inedible meal. Neither my travel companions or I touched the food. Even the in-flight entertainment was terrible. Our choices were three different Bollywood movies, none of which had English subtitles. However, the topper on the day was the cockroach infested lavatory. When the cabin crew was informed of the cockroaches in the lav, they shrugged their shoulders and turned away! This behavior probably explains why it took halfway to London to decide to turn around for a rodent!

    Although I enjoy India and have been back many times since my misadventure on Air India, I have never again and never will fly Air India.

  5. Happy I missed the rats with my (horrible) Air India flight in 2013. Has to be the worst airline I’ve ever flown.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *