Flying on a plane is generally an awful experience, but next time you’re crammed in the middle seat counting down the hours, be thankful there aren’t 80 birds perched in coach with you.
An image is going viral on Reddit of a Saudi prince who brought 80 hawks on a plane Monday morning:
We’ve reached out to the author of the Reddit thread about the photo and will update the post if we learn anything else about which airline accommodated the birds, how long it took to situate them, and generally how well-behaved they were on the flight.
While this may look strange, transporting falcons in the Middle East is actually a pretty common practice. Falconry (training birds to hunt) has been practiced in the Middle East for thousands of years and is still a popular past time in the United Arab of Emirates.
A Reddit user pointed us in the direction of a very helpful Atlas Obscura article that says falcons can get their own forest green passports to fly in the United Arab Emirates. That passport allows the falcons to travel to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Morocco, and Syria.
The passport is valid for three years, according to the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.
The falcon is the national bird of the UAE, so it makes sense airlines flying out of there would accommodate the birds’ transit needs.
A spokesperson for the airline Flydubai told Frank Kane, a reporter for UAE news website The National, that falcons must have their own seat and are placed on a cloth to avoid accidents. Kane said the business class cabin was entirely reserved for falcons on his Flydubai flight, so this isn’t as rare of an occurrence as we may think.
Etihad Airways also allows falcons on its planes.
“We accept the carriage of falcons in the main aircraft cabin provided that all the necessary documents have been obtained. We also accept falcons as checked baggage,” Etihad writes on its website.
An Etihad spokesperson told Business Insider that, based on the cabin and flight crew uniforms, it’s unlikely the photo was taken on one of the airline’s planes.
Qatar Airways wrote on its website that you can bring a maximum of 6 falcons in economy class.
So if you’re looking to transport a falcon in the near future, it may not be as hard as you think — depending on where you’re going, of course.