For the first time, a European airline has taken steps to welcome falcons onboard its flights, with the introduction of a new platform to be used by the birds when they fly on planes.
Lufthansa Technik, the maintenance division of the German airliner, has developed a safe resting and traveling device called the Falcon Master, which fixes to existing seat rails on aircraft.
The move appears to signal a change in policy for the airline, which will begin allowing falcons to travel in airplane cabins starting late next year, AFP reports.
The new feature will likely help Lufthansa win a wider share of the lucrative Qatar market, where falconry is a popular pastime.
The airline currently operates a direct Doha to Frankfurt route, with the German city acting as a hub to connect with dozens of other cities throughout the world.
The dedicated bird stand, which the airline describes as “easy to install,” can be fitted above a folded seat on any Airbus or Boeing plane.
It features a stainless steel platform and a cage or transparent cover can be added, Lufthansa said in a statement.
With adjustable legs, it has been designed to take up minimal space in the cabin as well as address issues of hygiene and cleanliness. The platform can be quickly disassembled and stowed in lightweight containers which can be transported like a trolley.
Announcing the new device, Lufthansa Technik added that “The Falcon Master” kit would “maximize sanitary protection of walls, seats and carpets against dirt produced by the birds.”
Currently in the design phase, certification will take around six to nine months before it can be rolled out for use, a Lufthansa spokesman told AFP.
Falcons are permitted to travel in the cabin of many Middle Eastern airlines, although they are usually hooded and tethered to the glove of their handler. Qatar Airways’ website states:
“Falcons and service dogs… shall be allowed to accompany the owner in the passenger cabin of the aircraft subject to conditions. Falcons will however be allowed only in the Economy Class cabin.”
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad says on its website that “we accept the carriage of falcons in the main aircraft cabin, provided that all the necessary document have been obtained. We also accept falcons as checked baggage.”
Meanwhile, Dubai-based rival Emirates bans all animals in the cabin except guide dogs and falcons on routes between Dubai and some destinations in Pakistan.
And Royal Jordanian requires falcons being carried in the cabin on flights to be “properly hooded” and that “a chain or rope must be securely attached to the aircraft seat and the leg of each bird.” They can only be carried in economy class.