India's national carrier, Air India, has blamed the weather for a bed bug infestation on one of its recent flights from New York to the western city of Mumbai.

Photos of a few business class passengers bitten by bed bugs were widely shared online in the past week.

Air India has since apologised and ordered an inquiry. It also promised to "rigorously fumigate" the plane.

India's biggest international carrier, the airline is in severe debt.

Adding to its woes, the company has lost market share to new entrants and suffers a bad reputation of having poor service and cancelling flights.

A few years ago, an Air India plane travelling from Mumbai to London was forced to turn back mid-flight after a rat was spotted on board.

Air India apologised one week after passengers who had flown from New York to Mumbai on 17 July complained of being bitten by bed bugs.

Some shared photos in which their arms appeared to be covered in bug bites. Others shared close-up images of their seats, alleging they were infested with bed bugs.

One of India's oldest airlines, Air India has not turned a profit since 2007.

In June 2017, India's cabinet approved plans to privatise the carrier. But it failed to attract buyers after the federal government offered to sell a controlling stake.

Any buyer would have to take on about $5bn (3.6bn) of debt, which is only about half of what the airline owes.