A photo of a Saudi prince’s hawks on board a plane has gone viral, after the flight’s captain snapped a pic and sent it to his friend who posted it to Reddit.
The photo shows dozens of the birds, each in its own seat in the central rows of the aircraft. Men in traditional Saudi headdresses occupy any seat not taken by a bird.
Falconry is a popular pastime among the wealthy of the Middle East.
“My captain friend sent me this photo. Saudi prince bought ticket for his 80 hawks,” Reddit user Lensoo wrote.
There is no information about which airline the prince was using, but a number of airlines do allow creatures on board, according to reports.
Airlines such as Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates each allow falcons – of which hawks are close relations – in the cabin, said the Telegraph.
Qatar Airways states in its travel advice: “You are permitted to carry 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).”
Etihad Airways also allows falcons, advising: “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.”
Emirates says: “Animals are not permitted in the cabin of Emirates flights, with the exception of falcons between Dubai and certain destinations in Pakistan, and Guide Dogs for the Blind.”
One viewer commented on the Reddit post: “If you fly Etihad or Emirates or Qatar enough you will eventually see someone flying in first class with a falcon sitting next to them.”
IAG, the owner of British Airways, among others, says it transports animals “of all shapes and sizes” but makes no specific mention of hawks or the like, said the Telegraph.
In 2013, Gulf News reported that more than 28,000 falcons had been issued with passports since 2002 in a bid to combat the illegal trade of the birds in the region.