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Stowaway rat grounds SriLankan Airlines flight in Colombo

Sri Lanka’s national airline faced scheduling chaos after a rodent boarded a plane

Natalie Wilson
Tuesday 27 February 2024 10:58 GMT
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The plane was grounded until the runaway rodent had been located
The plane was grounded until the runaway rodent had been located (Getty Images)

A SriLankan Airlines flight was grounded in Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo last week after a rat was spotted onboard.

The animal’s appearance on an Airbus A330 flight from Lahore, Pakistan to the Sri Lankan capital sparked lengthy delays and a day-long aircraft search to check for damage and locate the rodent.

Rats can pose a serious threat to passenger jets if they chew through critical technical components or wiring.

Ashok Pathirage, SriLankan Airlines chairman told the Ports, Shipping and Aviation Ministry: “We had to spray a chemical to [sic] an aircraft in which rats were found and ground it for one day as per the international standards.

“Two other aircraft had to be delayed due to technical defects.”

According to local news outlets, the rat was found dead and flights resumed with some rat-related disruption to the regular departures schedule.

On Sunday, a SriLankan Airlines statement on airport operations said: “SriLankan Airlines would like to clarify that the delays experienced by its passengers at the check-in counters in Bandaranaike International Airport during the early hours of this morning were caused by temporary, unplanned operational conditions at the airport and not due to any type of trade union action.

“SriLankan Airlines would like to apologize to any passengers inconvenienced by these operational delays, while the airline continues to monitor the situation and take steps to avoid a recurrence.”

There are concerns the stowaway rat could deter investors amid a period of financial turmoil for the airline. As of March 2023, SriLankan Airlines losses surpassed $1.8 billion.

Aviation minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said the rat could make “the few investors” interested in buying the cash-strapped airline rethink a sale.

Multiple Sri Lankan governments have attempted to sell the national airline with no luck – SriLankan Airlines has even been on sale for one dollar with no takers.

This incident was not the first time passengers have had company in the cabin. In October, a smuggled albino rat and an otter caused mid-flight panic after escaping a traveller’s hand luggage on a VietJet flight to Taipei, Taiwan. While last January a cat escaped its carrier onboard a flight from Dallas to San Francisco, causing feline chaos as the crew walked the aisle to locate the loose pet’s owner.

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