When a Saudi Prince Chartered a Plane for His 80 Falcons

In 2017, a rather unusual story flew across international news outlets and social media platforms, a story that was so bizarre it appeared to belong in the realm of fiction. However, it was indeed real, and it involved a Saudi Prince, 80 falcons, and an airplane.

This astonishing event unfolded when a Saudi Prince decided to purchase airplane seats for his 80 falcons, a decision that would baffle many but is not as uncommon in the Middle Eastern elite circles as one might think.

A Royal Journey

In the winter of 2017, passengers aboard a Middle Eastern flight were surprised to find themselves sharing their journey with 80 feathered co-passengers. The Saudi Prince had booked every seat in the airplane for his cherished falcons, ensuring they would travel in comfort and security.

The surreal sight of falcons perched on airplane seats, each adorned with a hood and tethered securely, was captured in a photograph that quickly went viral. The image depicted a sea of feathers against the familiar setting of an airplane interior, a juxtaposition that caught the world's attention.

Photo: lensoo/Reddit

We're not sure which in-flight movie the falcons decided to watch. 

Falconry: A Cherished Tradition

Falconry, the sport of hunting with birds of prey, holds a significant cultural and historical status in the Arabian Peninsula. The tradition dates back over 2,000 years and is deeply ingrained in Arab heritage and identity. Falcons, especially the Peregrine Falcon and Saker Falcon, are highly prized birds, often seen as status symbols among the wealthy in the Middle East.

In fact, so valued are these birds that they have their own passports, a measure introduced by the United Arab Emirates in 2002 to combat illegal smuggling. This also allows the falcons to travel across borders with their owners, often for the purpose of hunting trips or falconry competitions.

Elite Falcons on the Move

Given the high value and cultural significance of falcons, it is not unheard of for them to be transported by air. Some airlines even have specific policies for carrying falcons, although they typically travel in the cargo hold.

However, the Saudi Prince's decision to buy out an entire plane for his falcons was a display of luxury and attachment to these revered birds on a different level. It highlighted the lengths some falcon owners are willing to go to ensure their birds' well-being.

A Flight to Remember

This event, while surprising to many, revealed a fascinating intersection of tradition and modernity, luxury and nature. It showcased how an ancient practice like falconry can find its place in the contemporary world, even in as unexpected a place as an airplane's cabin.

While falcons flying high in the sky is a common sight, falcons flying high inside an airplane was a sight that captured global attention. The 2017 flight populated by 80 falcons was not just an ordinary journey; it was a testament to the deep cultural reverence for these magnificent birds and the extraordinary lengths to which their owners will go to accommodate them.

In the end, the story of the Saudi Prince and his 80 falcons serves as a unique insight into the rich tapestry of Middle Eastern culture, where tradition and opulence often fly side by side.