An Air India plane flying to London was forced to return to Mumbai after passengers spotted a rat on board, the airline said Thursday.

Though the rat was not found, the pilot returned to Mumbai on Wednesday keeping passenger safety in mind, Air India said in a statement.

Passengers were later flown by a separate aircraft to London.

The aircraft would be fumigated and checked before it is returned to service.

Maintenance workers would have to make sure that the rat did not damage equipment or chew any wires and the plane is certified to be rodent-free, an airline official said.

India's cash-strapped national carrier had two other mishaps the same day. An Air India pilot aborted takeoff from a northern Indian city after a stray dog ran onto the runway as the plane was taxiing.

An official at the airport in Amritsar said the pilot spotted the dog running onto the path of the front wheels of the plane. He applied the emergency brakes and returned the aircraft to its parking bay. All 171 passengers and crew later boarded the same plane which took off for London.

In another incident, an Air India plane from Mumbai was hit by a catering van at the Newark, New Jersey, airport in the United States.

Two weeks ago, an Air India technician was sucked into an aircraft engine and killed at Mumbai airport in what aviation experts described as a "freak accident."