A somewhat unusual image has been going viral on Reddit’s online forums – It shows 30 to 40 hooded birds of prey aboard what appears to be a middle-eastern commercial flight.
“My captain friend sent me this photo,” the original poster wrote, “Saudi prince bought ticket for his 80 hawks.”
Without further evidence, the details provided by the poster remain entirely unconfirmed, but the image itself is likely to be genuine.
A technical scan known as ‘error level analysis’ shows the image is unlikely to be photo-shopped – and reverse image searches indicate it hasn’t been posted online before.
Still, it may not be in Saudi Arabia, there may not be 80 birds, the birds may actually be falcons, and they may not belong to a prince.
But the basics of the image – large birds flying on a commercial airline – isn’t actually that far-fetched.
Indeed, it’s not uncommon for passengers to travel with falcons in the Middle East.
In some cultures falconry dates back thousands of years – Abu Dhabi even has a dedicated Falcon hospital.
Numerous airlines include sections on falcons in their cabin baggage policy.
“We accept the carriage of falcons in the main aircraft cabin provided that all the necessary documents have been obtained,” Etihad’s policy states.
“We also accept falcons as checked baggage.”
Such ‘necessary documents’ might include a falcon passport, developed by the United Arab Emirates to prevent illegal trafficking.
“You are permitted to carry one falcon on board the Economy Class passenger cabin of an aircraft,” QATAR Airways says, “and a maximum of six falcons are permitted within the Economy Class cabin.”
Emirates is a little stricter, however.
“Pets are not permitted in the cabin, with the exception of falcons between Dubai and certain destinations in Pakistan.”
Royal Jordanian restricts falcons to economy.