Defiant Nepal Airlines rats on Air India, other peers

September 8th, 2011 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 8 (IANS) After being forced to halt flights two days in a row following fears that mice were on board and becoming the butt of unflattering reports in the media at home and abroad, Nepal’s beleaguered national carrier Thursday sought to fight back, saying it was not alone in the rat race.

Nepal Airlines in a statement Thursday said there were a number of instances of the four-footed stowaway being found on board other airlines as well, including that of neighbour India’s national carrier Air India.

The statement detailed seven instances between 2006 and the current year when rodents rode or were suspected to be present aboard the aircraft of various international airlines. Air India had the dubious distinction of featuring the most in them — three times.

In September 2009, a mouse was detected inside the Air India plane in London, while in 2010 February, a second one was found in its aircraft in Riyadh, the Nepal Airlines said.

In January 2010, while an Air India flight was about to take off from Dubai for Delhi, a third rat sighting was reported, the statement said.

Besides Air India, the other airlines that carried the unwelcome passenger were said to be the American Airlines and United Airlines, two of the largest airlines in the world, the Atlanta-based Delta Airlines and the Scandinavian Airlines, the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Nepal Airlines said an American Airlines Boeing-767 was reported to have a mouse in 2006, so did the United Airlines aircraft in January 2008 while readying to fly from Washington to Beijing.

Delta Airlines faced the same furry furore before heading for London from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in November 2009 while the latest mouse incident occurred last month when the Scandinavian Airlines was flying from Sweden to Chicago Aug 17.

The Nepali Airlines, which hit the headlines in the past for sacrificing goats for the safety of flights, ran into the fresh ridicule after its Boeing-757 flight to Bangkok was grounded at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport Monday so a mouse on board could be trapped, swatted or chased out.

It ran into more trouble over suspected mouse landing Tuesday at the Hong Kong airport. However, Thursday’s statement dismissed reports about a mouse reappearing on its aircraft in Hong Kong.

It said the Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Corporation that was entrusted with the maintenance of the aircraft carried a thorough search of the aircraft and could not find any rodent on board.

Despite its denial and the naming of other airlines sporting mice on board, the state carrier would find it harder to live the commotion down due to its chequered career.

It has been pursued by allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Even as the mouse sightings were reported, Nepal’s apex court sentenced a former top brass of the airline, R. Chaturvedi, to 18 months’ prison and a stiff fine of over NRS 20 million for corruption during his tenure.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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