The airline said no rodent had been found, but it had no choice but to turn back and fumigate the aircraft after the report.
“(The Dreamliner flight) AI 123… returned to Delhi due to (a) suspected rat sighting,” an airline official told AFP on condition of anonymity on Friday.
“The presence of the rodent was not confirmed, but keeping passenger safety in mind, the aircraft was brought back.”
Rats pose a serious threat to the safety of flights as they can chew through wires and damage internal controls.
They often hitch rides on food catering trucks that store the flight meal trays.
It was not the first time the troubled airline, which has not reported an annual profit since 2007, had suffered a rodent problem.
An Air India domestic flight was reportedly grounded in May in the northern town of Leh after crew spotted rats scurrying around the plane.
Another plane was grounded at Delhi airport last August when staff complained of a rat infestation.
The Air India official said there was “nothing extraordinary in rodents being found on planes”, and it was a “global problem”. – AFP