While I was flying as an Emirates cabin crew, one of the most interesting things I discovered was that we could get a bird falcon as a passenger. Yes, no kidding – you could be having a falcon on board sitting next to you. I was supposed to have it on one of my flights, but as or plane was delayed, they finally didn’t board the falcon.
I was quite interested how it would look like, what would be reactions by other passengers, crew… but unfortunately didn’t see it in person. I wanted to show you in this post why falcons are so important in Middle East and why they are rare animals that can fly in airplane’s cabin.
See example how it may look like (taken from Internet sources):
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Falcons are well valued in the Middle East, especially in the United Arab Emirates where falcon is a national symbol. They represent also a status symbol for their owners who like to carry them wherever they go.
Here is a photo of me holding a falcon when I first moved to Dubai, during the Desert Safari tour. I was sooo scared to be near it! It is a dangerous bird after all…
For Emirati falcons represent courage, perseverance, determination and freedom
Falcons are used as pets or in a sport called falconry (hunting with falcons) – a game that has been popular in the Middle East for centuries. Falconry has become so significant in Arab culture, tradition and heritage that UNESCO has added it to its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list (Source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/01/middleeast/falcons-planes-middle-east/).
INTERESTING FACTS : There has been even a hospital for falcons in Abu Dhabi, since 1999. Falcons can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and owners are advised to have the GPS chips inserted so they can keep track of their birds.
Falcons can get passports to fly on a plane!
Yes, this is done mainly to battle smuggling. Falcon passport is valid for 3 years and costs around $130. And yes, you could expect a falcon flying on a seat next to you or sitting on passenger’s arm – if you fly with Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airlines, Air Arabia and/or Royal Jordanian Airlines…
Usually one or two to max six falcons are permitted in the entire cabin. Airfare tickets for falcons may vary between $115 to $1,620 per bird. Some airlines may also require it to be caged.
We as cabin crew were briefed that in case we are having a falcon on board, it would have eyes covered (otherwise when they see something moving – they would fly to grab it), and that they are usually calm and relaxed. Only during the landing phase they might get agitated and flap their wings.
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UNUSUAL CASE: At the beginning of 2017, there was this extreme case that cabin was full of Saudi Prince’s falcons (total of 80) on a flight to Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia. Image was taken by a pilot at the time and posted by Ahmet Yasar, on Reddit and it was shared by CNN all over the world.
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