Flying can get weird anywhere, but in the Persian Gulf, it isn’t uncommon for a normal passenger flight to house a menagerie of exotic birds.
If the photo above needs any clarification, check out this Reddit thread: “My captain friend send me this photo,” its caption reads. “Saudi prince bought tickets for his 80 hawks.”
Yep, that’s right. 80 birds on a plane. Next to people. All of whom appear to be undisturbed by this mass of helmet-strapped birds. If you thought having a yapping dog next to you was a nuisance, you’ve never been truly annoyed.
But as some astute comments on the thread explained, the birds weren’t hawks, but falcons. “Falconry is steeped in history in the Arab states and the falconer's birds are revered and treasured,” one commenter wrote. “If you fly Etihad or Emirates or Qatar enough you will eventually see someone flying in first class with a falcon sitting next to them,” added another.
Gizmodo first brought this to the Internet’s attention, explaining that at least one airline in the United Arab Emirates -- Etihad Airways -- has a special policy on falcons. All the birds need is a special passport, and they can travel to and from the UAE like normal passengers.
Another Redditor brought up a similar post from from 2013, which shows a different flight littered with falcons.
While the original thread attributes the presence of birds to a “Saudi Prince,” it’s just as likely that an Emirati Sheik was behind the stunt. Dignitaries from those cash-rich gulf states really like birds, especially in the UAE. That's why you'll find falcons flying on planes, and not like, uh, in the sky.
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