Despite my love of German autos, I do not own one and instead use public transportation daily in Frankfurt. While the system is great for getting just about anywhere in town (and indeed, in the country), the underground stations have a serious rodent problem – it is not uncommon to be waiting for the next U-Bahn train with dozens of rats scurrying about within eyesight, both on the tracks and on the platform.
Those little critters came flooding into my mind today as I read that Air India encountered a rat problem onboard an A321 aircraft.
Rats were observed when the Airbus A-321, flying as AI 021, landed at [Delhi] airport from Kolkata. The crew observed many rats running around in the rear half of the aircraft cabin. As soon as all the passengers alighted, the aircraft was taken out of service. Instead of being prepared for the next flight, this bigger version of the A-320 family of planes was taken to a remote bay for fumigation by central warehousing corporation personnel to eliminate all the rats on board.
Once even a single rat is observed on an aircraft, the plane has to be fumigated. “Rats on board an aircraft can lead to a catastrophe if they start chewing up electric wires of a fly by wire plane. If that happens, pilots will have no control on any system on board leading to a disaster,” a senior commander said. What usually prevents such a situation is that passengers inadvertently drop a lot of food on the cabin floor, which keeps rats busy.
Rats typically enter through catering vans, which drive up to aircraft and use hydraulic lifts to rise to aircraft doors in order to load food. Doesn’t give you much confidence of the cleanliness of in-flgiht kitchens does it?
Meanwhile, an Air India spokesman now claims there were not “scores” of rats but only a single one observed but does so in politician double-speak, “What I have been told is that there was only one rat on the aircraft.” You may have been told something, but that is different than flatly denying there were multiple rodents.
Avoid Air India? Certainly not. But it does make me quite uncomfortable to even imagine that I might sleeping on a flight one day and feel something scurrying up my leg. I am shivering in trepidation as I type this and will leave my shoes on next time I fly!