An Air India flight was forced to return mid-air to New Delhi after passengers found a bat on board the Boeing plane which had instilled fear among flyers.

Footage shows the bat flying around the cabin leaving passengers shell-shocked before the standby emergency landing was initiated.

The Air India flight had taken off from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport before crew members reported the presence of the bat to the captain around half an hour after the plane was in the air.

A DGCA official said: "On arrival, it was learnt that crew members saw a bat inside the cabin.

"Wildlife staff were called to catch and take away the bat. The aircraft landed safely at around 3:55am, and later it was declared Aircraft on Grounded.”

“The aircraft landed safely at around 3:55 am, and later it was declared Aircraft on Grounded.”

The captain contacted Air Traffic Control about the unusual incident and it was decided to turn back to Delhi.

A spokesperson for Air India said: “Such mammals have the possibility of coming from third party vehicles such as for catering purpose."

Wildlife officials were also contacted to retrieve the bat from the cabin, which was found in business class near seat number eight.

Fuel worth $300k was also dumped from the plane before making a landing.

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The Newark-bound flight took off at around 2:20am and had been in the air for around half an hour when the incident unfolded.

A fumigation took place after the passengers had disembarked and the carcass of the bat was removed.

Passengers were rerouted to a different Air India flight and reached Newark later on the same day.

The airline reported the incident to the flight safety department and has sought a detailed report on the aircraft from the engineering team.

A preliminary investigation report from the safety department also stated that the loading vehicles were seen to be carrying rats.

The incident comes as India continues to be devastated by Covid-19, with more than 27 million cases and 323,000 deaths from the disease.

The novel coronavirus is believed to have originated in bats, possibly adding to people's alarm at the animal flying through the enclosed space.

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