Qantas was forced to ground one of its Boeing 767 jets Tuesday after five baby rats were discovered on board by a flight crew.
The BBC says the "crew found the rats minutes before passengers were due to board a Boeing 767 flying from Sydney to Brisbane. The airline said it was a rare occurrence and passengers were put on another plane while the rats were disposed of."
The baby rats were in a cabinet holding a defibrillator. The rats were removed and -- following additional inspections to check for possible damage -- the plane returned to service this morning, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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"We don't know how they got there. The aircraft was at the gate for some time before departure and we are investigating," a Qantas spokeswoman tells AFP. "It is a rare occurrence. We have no record of it ever happening before."
However, one of the airline's unions was quick to counter that claim.
The Associated Press writes "Scott Connolly of the Transportation Workers Union told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Thursday that members have had concerns about hygiene and sanitation on Qantas flights."
On that topic, the Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s "AM" radio program pressed Connolly with some tough questions.
In a transcript published online, ABC correspondent Michael Vincent notes Qantas says it "is not investigating any staff over the incident and it has no concerns the discovery of the rats is linked to ongoing industrial action."
Vincent then goes on to bluntly ask Connolly: "Is this related to Qantas' ongoing industrial negotiations with the TWU?"
Connolly's response: "Absolutely not, clearly this is related to the company's work practices and what's happening in that particular work space."