A series of incidents involving the pesky rodents have caused disruption to Air India flights in the past month.
This latest incident is the third time this month that a rat has been spotted on board a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft operated by Air India. A rat was spotted six hours into a flight from Melbourne to Delhi last Saturday.
Rat spotted three times in one month
The Dreamliner was diverted to Singapore and passengers were offered alternative arrangements to get to their final destination. Two weeks ago a rat was spotted on a flight from Brimingham to Delhi, while on April 11 another sighting took place during boarding for an Air India flight from Delhi to Frankfurt.
According to a source cited by the Times of India, the airplane “was fumigated, laid with rat traps and locked up for several hours” following those two sightings. However it appears that whatever the pest control men attempted to do, it didn’t manage to kill the rat.
This is the third rat sighting on the same Dreamliner plane in the space of a month. The chairman of the government-owned airline decided to take matters into his own hands, taking a trip to Delhi airport to inspect facilities and check the lift trucks that catering companies used to service the planes.
Air India chairman carries out inspection of facilities
According to chairman Ashwani Lohani, airline workers would now be banned from eating meals in areas where aircraft are parked. He said that the airport had been asked to designate an area which could be used as a staff canteen.
Air India has had problems in the past with rats on its planes. A flight en route to London had to return to Mumbai in late 2015 after passengers reported a rat on board. Another flight en route to Milan had to turn back to Delhi in July 2015 for the same reason.
The Indian air travel market is growing rapidly due to a fast-growing economy and an increasingly large middle class. The total number of passengers increased by 20% last year and new routes are constantly being announced.
However the airlines are struggling to keep up with demand. and are struggling to stay afloat. Poor maintenance records, bad infrastructure and overcrowded airports all make for less than ideal conditions.
To compound the problems fierce fare wars have left many airlines in financial trouble. Despite the challenges, many foreign airlines have also entered the market, attracted by its size and potential.
Air travel in India continues to grow apace
There is huge room for growth in India, where only 70 million people out of a total population of 1.2 billion fly on domestic routes. In China, which has a similar population, that figure is four times as high.
According to Kapil Kaul, regional head of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, air travel in India is “showing double digit growth and will continue to grow at double digits for the next 10 to 15 years.”
India’s biggest and most profitable airline, Indigo, has placed a $26.6 billion order with Airbus for 250 A320neo aircraft. Jet Airways has agreed an $8 billion deal for 75 Boeing 737 aircraft, which will start being delivered in mid-2018.
The question for India is whether its creaking infrastructure can keep up with the projected growth while keeping passengers and airline staff safe.