A photograph of 80 falcons belonging to a Saudi prince flying on a plane, each with an individual seats, became an internet sensation after it was posted on Reddit.
The image of the flight with the hooded birds occupying a large section of the plane was taken by the pilot and shared by Reddit user lensoo.
Although having so many birds on a plane is fairly unusual, several airlines serving the Gulf States permit passengers to bring falcons aboard with them, including Etihad Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian Airlines.
Noted the Mashable website, “One Redditor points out that this flight probably isn’t Qatar economy class because its policy states that only six falcons are permitted in economy class at a time.” Indeed, Qatar Airways said it had established that the flight was not one of Qatar Airways’, saying that the cabin interior and crew uniforms are incorrect.
According to its website, Qatar Airlines allows passengers to bring “one falcon on board the Economy Class passenger cabin of an aircraft, and a maximum of six falcons are permitted within the Economy Class cabin of an aircraft (country regulations may apply).” It even has a page of rates for transporting falcons across the region.
— VRSTechDXB (@vrstech_dxb) January 31, 2017
Lufthansa has special stands for first class passengers to put their falcons on during flight.
The United Arab Emirates has issued passports for falcons since 2002 and has issued tens of thousands of travel documents for the birds.
Falconry is an ancient and important part of the Arab heritage and culture and is very popular in the Gulf States. There are two breeding farms in the Emirates, as well as those in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi has the largest falcon hospital in the world. It is estimated that there are approximately 3,000 birds used for falconry in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Quran (sura 5, verse 4) permits Muslims to eat animals that “trained dogs and falcons catch for you. You train them according to Allah’s teachings.”
One Reddit user commented on the photo, “doesn’t he know that hawks can fly?!?!?” to which another responded, “Nah I wouldn’t let a hawk fly my plane.”
Another one quipped that with their hoods on the birds would miss out on the in-flight movie.