Uncaged falcon on board!

Old Sep 26, 09, 3:43 am
  #1  
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Uncaged falcon on board!

A few days ago I saw something that I have never seen before in my years of flying in the region: A passenger was carrying a falcon on his arm on a DXB-DOH QR flight.

It was tethered to the passenger's glove, and with a blinder hat on, but otherwise free to flap around and spread its majestic wings, which it did several times in the boarding area. The animal left three large white-ish blobs on the floor in the boarding area in DXB. (I will give you one guess as to how concerned the passenger seemed to be about cleaning this up or alerting other passengers who were walking close by.) I can only imagine what it might have left on the seats or the floor onboard.

I was sitting in F, so assumed that the duo would be next to me, but luckily the passenger walked by toward the back of the plane. I would certainly not want to be the passenger seated next to this menace. Regardless of how well-trained such a bird is, there must be some risk of the beast pecking another passenger. And there must be at least some chance that it could break free from the string, which would be disastrous.

I was shocked that the airline would allow this. Anyone seen it before?
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Old Sep 26, 09, 7:01 am
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I was looking into the pets policy of Middle Eastern carriers years ago, and was amazed to find that virtually all of them permitted uncaged falcons in the cabin. At the time, most required all other animals to fly in the cargo hold.

Royal Jordanian's pet policy is here: http://www.rj.com/TravelEssentials/P...S/default.aspx - the section about falcons is at the end. Most regional airlines have similar rules. I've never actually seen it, though.

Setting aside the inconvenience to other passengers, well-trained falcons are worth a fair amount of money. If I'd made that investment, I wouldn't want to take the chance of the bird panicking and hurting itself, which it could easily do while leg-tethered to a seat. The bird would be much safer (and probably happier) in a cage.

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Old Sep 26, 09, 6:41 pm
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I flew Emirates from Karachi to Dubai many years ago (1992 to be precise). I was shocked to see the same thing. We had somewhere between 15 and 20 falcons on board. We had 6 falcons on a long perch occupying the middle section of the last row in coach. One of the Dubai royal families had much (all?) of the first class cabin with their falcons. There were two birds on one first class seat, and a person seated adjacent. Newspaper was put on the seat and the floor. The group had been bustard hunting in Pakistan.

I was so shocked to see it that I found the flight attendance to ask if this was allowed. She assured me that the birds had been thru more stringent medical tests than me. I've heard their value can go as high as $1MM per bird.

A friend told me that she was in a Hyatt in Casablanca, and a suite had been booked for falcons.

When we arrived in Dubai, we stopped short of the gate. The royal family, their servants, and their falcons all deplaned into SUVs that had pulled up on the tarmac for them.
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Old Sep 26, 09, 11:38 pm
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Wow! I can't believe that that's allowed in this day and age, but I suppose that they are well-trained and tied to the owner's arm. All in all, definitely preferable to an uncaged dog running around in the cabin!

Oh, and Turquoise, welcome to FT! ^
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Old Sep 27, 09, 6:36 am
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Now what if someone on board has a severe allergic reaction to birds/feathers.. or a phobia about them? Offload the passenger?
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Old Sep 27, 09, 8:31 am
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I'm guessing the people who are into Falconry are very much in the upper echelons of society in these parts? In which case, I'm guessing they wield a fair bit of influence when it comes to what they can and cannot take onto the plane.
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Old Sep 27, 09, 8:54 am
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Not much of a falcon if he had to take a plane.

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Old Oct 19, 09, 8:01 pm
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Can falcons be trained to attack?
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Old Nov 30, 09, 11:52 pm
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Originally Posted by SYDguy View Post
Can falcons be trained to attack?
They are trained to hunt.

Unfortunately the training to attack only idiots is still a work in progress....

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Old Dec 1, 09, 12:08 am
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Originally Posted by mecabq View Post
I would certainly not want to be the passenger seated next to this menace. Regardless of how well-trained such a bird is, there must be some risk of the beast pecking another passenger. And there must be at least some chance that it could break free from the string, which would be disastrous.
Let me assure you, as someone who has actually handled birds of prey, "pecking" you is not the problem....since falcon's beaks are not terribly strong or their primary weapon. Ripping the hell out of you with it's talons *is* the issue, since that is what they kill their prey with. (...ever seen a small hawk treat a rabbit as a "pop-top" treat container? Yes they can rip the top off with those talons...)

However, since the bird you saw was hooded, jessed, and leashed to the handler's glove....the only one at risk was the falconer handling the bird. And since he's likely wearing a gauntleted glove comparable to a welder's glove, not much risk from a falcon-sized bird. (larger owls, hawks, and eagles can shred those gloves by the way)

The worst someone sitting next to a falconer is apt to have to put up with is the possibility of droppings (although typically the aft end of the bird will be facing the seatback ahead)....or being hit by a wing if it is disturbed by turbulence or other jostling. But that's typically more of a shock than anything else. Since falcons are rather light-weight, it more like being hit by a feather duster than any serious blow.
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Old Dec 3, 09, 8:54 pm
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Is it possible to request to be seated next to a uncaged Falcon on QR?

It sounds to me like quite a good way to dispose of unwanted pretzel snacks/napkins/other passengers fingers should they get in the way mid flight.

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Old Dec 7, 09, 3:39 am
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Unhappy Falcons

Originally Posted by ariddell View Post
Is it possible to request to be seated next to a uncaged Falcon on QR?

It sounds to me like quite a good way to dispose of unwanted pretzel snacks/napkins/other passengers fingers should they get in the way mid flight.

If you get sat next to one, it is no fun at all. I asked to be moved, but the flight was full. In the end a fellow Arab sat next to the falcon. I have never travelled with Gulf Air since and although I wrote 3 letters of complaint all I received was a Gulf Air diary and a phonecall from a Filipina Gulf Air employee who said suggested that if I encountered a falcon next to me again that I wear swimming goggles so to avoid my eyes being pecked out.
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Old Dec 7, 09, 6:56 am
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Originally Posted by FFlyer189 View Post
all I received was a Gulf Air diary and a phonecall from a Filipina Gulf Air employee who said suggested that if I encountered a falcon next to me again that I wear swimming goggles so to avoid my eyes being pecked out.
Are you serious??

I just came across this read and as I am currently planing my first trip to DXB, I fing it very amusing. I guess all the more reason to fly on LH!
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Old Dec 7, 09, 7:10 am
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Originally Posted by mlshanks View Post
Let me assure you, as someone who has actually handled birds of prey, "pecking" you is not the problem....since falcon's beaks are not terribly strong or their primary weapon. Ripping the hell out of you with it's talons *is* the issue, since that is what they kill their prey with. (...ever seen a small hawk treat a rabbit as a "pop-top" treat container? Yes they can rip the top off with those talons...)

However, since the bird you saw was hooded, jessed, and leashed to the handler's glove....the only one at risk was the falconer handling the bird. And since he's likely wearing a gauntleted glove comparable to a welder's glove, not much risk from a falcon-sized bird. (larger owls, hawks, and eagles can shred those gloves by the way)
No, I haven't handled birds of prey, and I understand that they are trained and leashed. But the fact that the carnivorous beast's beak is only its secondary weapon is not much of a relief. It doesn't take much force to poke out an eye or convey a serious gouge to one's skin.

It is always possible for a domesticated, trained animal to go berserk, especially in what must be a stressful environment like a moving airplane. Even the prospect of an accidental peck, or even slap with a wing, is a bit more than an airline passenger should have to defend against. The range of motion of the bird that I saw, even with the tether, was still enough to disturb the passenger sitting next to him.
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Old Dec 7, 09, 7:26 am
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Last I checked the policy for uncaged falcons on QR is the following:

1. Falcon and handler must be in economy
2. Falcon and handler must purchase a block of seats usually along the window
3. Falcon must be hooded and leashed

Therefore on QR at least you wouldn't be sitting next to one. Being around falcons a lot I can say that the chances of you getting hurt are pretty much non-existent especially with the precautions taken above. The only disturbance you might experience is from the bird occasionally flapping it's wings and the handler will try his best to avoid that to protect the valuable birds.
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