Two rats believed to be loose aboard a Japan Air Lines jumbo jet forced airline officials to ground the aircraft and transfer nearly 300 New York-bound passengers to another plane, a spokesman said Thursday.
Airline employees discovered that 25 rats, being imported into Japan for laboratory use, had escaped from their cage after the jet arrived from New York on Wednesday night. They managed to capture 23, but two remained unaccounted for by noon Thursday, when the Boeing 747 was to return to New York from Tokyo.
"We had to ground the flight because of safety precautions," said JAL spokesman Keiichi Sakamoto. He said the rats could have chewed through cables during the night.
A different jet was readied for the 294 passengers, who finally left Tokyo six hours late.
The two white rats remained at large, and the jet won't fly until they are captured, Sakamoto said. Traps have been set aboard the plane.