Air India (AI) has stopped using caged rats to test the efficiency of its aircraft fumigation after animal rights activists protested. The airline has instead started using gas concentration meters that measure the intensity of fumigation.
Air India officials confirmed the move, saying the practice of placing a rat in the aircraft was no longer there. "On instances when a rat is sighted by a passenger or cabin crew, the aircraft would be fumigated to ensure that the rat is either captured or killed," said Jitender Bhargava, a former executive director of AI.
Under Air India's practice, if a caged rat placed inside a plane died, it would be presumed other rats inside the plane had also died.
No other Indian carrier, sources said, used caged rats to test the efficiency of aircraft cabin fumigation.
Having a rat on board, however, can have serious consequences. "Modern aircraft have fly-by-wire controls. If a wire gets cut, it can lead to a short circuit or even control failure," said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation expert. "It's not just rats. Even snakes, cockroaches, lizards sneak in sometimes," he said.
Most airlines, however, take adequate precautions to fumigate areas adjoining to where an aircraft is parked.
"Adjoining areas are fumigated regularly particularly in Mumbai where there is a lot of habitation around the airport," Bhargava said.