Bat in business class forces US-bound Air India jet to turn back

Aviation regulator orders inquiry after latest incident of animals appearing on state carrier's flights

An Air India flight bound for New Jersey in the United States returned to New Delhi after a bat appeared in business class. Reuters
An Air India flight bound for New Jersey in the United States returned to New Delhi after a bat appeared in business class. Reuters

An Air India flight from New Delhi to the US state of New Jersey was forced to turn back after a bat flew around the passenger cabin.

The Boeing 777-300ER was about 30 minutes into its flight from New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport on Thursday when the animal appeared.

Video taken by a crew member showed the bat hitting the cabin ceiling in the business class section.

Officials said the sighting caused panic among passengers and prompted the pilots to request an emergency landing.

Airport authorities declared an emergency as the plane dumped fuel while circling over Delhi for two hours before touching down.

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation said the aircraft was fumigated after the passengers disembarked. The bat's body was found in Row 8 of the cabin. The regulator has asked for a detailed investigation into the incident.

The passengers continued their journey on another Air India plane.

An airline official told The National that the bat could have entered the plane through a loading vehicle such as a catering lorry.

India’s flag carrier has regularly hit the headlines for the appearance of animals on board, mostly rats which pose a serious threat to the safety of flights as they can chew through wires and damage internal controls.

Last year, passengers raised the alarm after spotting a rat in the cabin on a flight to Delhi from the northern city of Varanasi city.

The aircraft turned back to Varanasi, but the rat was not found.

In 2019, an Air India flight from Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam was stranded on the tarmac for 12 hours as pest control staff hunted for a rat.

Another rat sighting forced an Air India plane carrying more than 200 passengers to return to Mumbai almost three hours into a flight to London in December 2015.

Updated: May 29, 2021 07:07 PM

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