Traveling with falcons on commercial airliners is not unheard of in the Middle East, but the sheer number reportedly snapped on a recent flight is pretty remarkable.
Reddit user lensoo posted the image with dozens of hooded birds, writing, “My captain friend sent me this photo. Saudi prince bought tickets for his 80 hawks.”
Other Reddit users pointed out the picture, which quickly went viral, actually shows falcons, not hawks.
One wrote, “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.”
According to the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey, around half of the world’s falconers are located in the Middle East, and many travel across the globe to hunt and take part in competitions.
Middle Eastern airlines have special rules for transporting falcons, which have their own passports to crack down on smuggling.
According to Qatar Airways’ website, passengers 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.
Falconry is a popular sport among wealthy Saudis, who often see it as part of their Bedouin, or desert nomad, history. Falconry fans head to deserts to watch the magnificent raptors hunt for prey, with some chases lasting for days.
Many of the falcons are imported from the US and Canada and some birds can sell for over $1 million.