The ancient sport of falconry is so popular in the Middle East that many commercial airlines in that region allow passengers to bring trained hunting raptors into the main cabin, where the birds travel on a handler’s heavy cuff or tied to an adjacent seat.
“If falconers tried that in the states, people would get all worked up about it,” Scott McNeff, vice-president of the North American Falconers Association, “But in the Middle East its part of their culture. Everyone understands that and is around it all the time.”
Etihad Airways, Emiratesand Qatar Airways post falcon policies on their websites, as does Royal Jordanian Airlines, which allows up to 15 properly hooded falcons to travel in wide-bodied economy cabins at a per-bird charge of three times the normal excess baggage rate.
Fans of falconry with private aircraft will soon have a more convenient way to transport their birds.
With input from falcon specialists, the Executive Jet Solutions division of Hamburg-based Lufthansa Technik designed the “Falcon Master,” an easy-to-assemble and disassemble kit that connects to standard aircraft seat tracks and provides both a stable bird perch and stainless steel surfaces that can help “maximize sanitary protection of walls, seats and carpets against dirt produced by the birds,” according to a company statement.
A prototype of the product for private jet interiors is currently on display in Dubai, said Ziad al Hasmi from Lufthansa Technik, “and theoretically, it could also be installed in commercial aircraft in the future.”
The price? Depending on the market response and final design, the Falcon Master could sell for about 50,000 EUR, or about $61,760, and be available in the second half of 2015.
“The target market is private and VIP Jet owners especially from the Mid East, who own these precious birds and use them for hunting,” said Lufthansa Technik spokesperson Peter Isendahl of Lufthansa Technik AG.
U.S. airlines don’t allow falcons in the cabins, so Scott McNeff and his fellow falconers usually drive their birds to events and meetings in other regions. “I’d be content to sit on a plane with my bird on my fist,” said McNeff. “But it would be really nice to have perch on a plane where you can put the bird down, go to sleep and not worry.”
(My story on falcons on airplanes first appreared on TODAY.com)