When a Saudi Prince Bought Airplane Seats for Each of His 80 Falcons

Remember this the next time you’re cramped in the middle seat on an aircraft, counting down the minutes. Bigger.

But that can happen in the UAE. On a recent journey to the UAE, a Saudi king reportedly bought individual seats for all 80 falcons. “My captain friend emailed me this photo. “Saudi prince bought 80 hawks tickets.” (The poster misidentified the birds in the photo.)

Strange as it may appear, bringing falcons aboard flights intended for human passengers is not unheard of in the Middle East. The Middle East’s aristocracy enjoys falconry, which dates back thousands of years (Dubai boasts both a high-end falcon hospital and a museum dedicated to the birds). But it’s unclear why this particular falconer needed so many.

A blindfolded falcon ready to rack up some frequent flier points. Photo: yeowatzup on Flickr/Creative Commons)

According to Gizmodo, Etihad Airways accepts falcons in the main cabin or checked luggage. As the UAE’s national bird, the falcon is likely accommodated by various Gulf airlines.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital director Dr. Margit Muller displays the relevant falcon documentation. Photo: Eric Elder

Plus, there’s more. The UAE issues the falcons their own passports. The passport is only valid for three years for flights within the UAE. The birds must wear a leg band bearing their passport number instead of a photo. A falcon’s passport allows them to visit Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.

According to a FlyDubai spokesperson, each falcon must have its own seat and be placed on a cloth to avoid mishaps.

Not so unusual, after all. In one corner of the world,

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