DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — You might have seen falcon in flight, but have you seen one on a plane? How about 80 falcons on a plane?
— Reza Khaasteh (@Khaaasteh) January 30, 2017
Reddit user lensoo posted the photo on Monday with the comment “My captain friend sent me this photo. Saudi prince bought ticket (sic) for his 80 hawks.”
The falcons, and apparently seeing falcons in the cabin of a plane isn’t that unusual in the United Arab Emirates.
Falconry is a popular sport in the Middle East and falconers “travel the Persian Gulf and beyond with their birds to engage in festivals, competitions, and displays,” Atlas Obscura said.
“Many Gulf-based airlines allow falcons on planes,” wrote Ali Al Saloom, a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. “The birds must have passports and certificates of health.”
That’s right — falcons must have their own passports.
“The falcon passport, as it is called, was launched in the UAE to combat the illegal trade in falcons within the region,” according to Gulf News.
“The unusual documentation scheme is because of the fact that, in the UAE, falcons are highly prized and therefore attractive to smugglers,” Atlas Obscura reported in 2015.
The birds are fitted with a leg ring that has an ID number that corresponds to their passport, according to Conde Nast Traveler.
Qatar Airways lists prices ranging from $135 to $630 for a seat in economy class. That’s not a lot of scratch compared to how much people spend on the birds themselves.