Bear loose on Iraqi passenger flight at Dubai Airport

"Sorry, is this seat 17B?" A bear escapes its transport cage on an Iraqi Airways flight. (via YouTube)

Where’s Samuel L Jackson when you need him? An Iraqi Airways passenger flight met unexpected panda-monium when a bear wandered free from its transportation cage. Wildlife experts were called to manage the situation before it got grizzly as the plane prepared for departure at Dubai International Airport. They tranquilised the bear, returning it to its cage and removing it from the aircraft.

Video footage highlighted airport staff reaching out to pat the bear, who was looking around unreservedly in the luggage compartment of the flight. Wildlife professionals arrived shortly thereafter, sedating the bear.

The Prime Minister of Iraq, Muhammad Shia’ Al-Sudani, has since ordered an immediate investigation.

Iraqi Airways maintains that the airline is not at fault, affirming they adhered to appropriate measures for transporting the bear, as approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). An anonymous airline official confirmed the bear was heading on a flight to Baghdad from Dubai, despite the airline initially claiming it was the opposite.

The owner flying with the bear-y unusual piece of checked luggage was not identified, but keeping large predators like bears as pets is becoming popular among the wealthy elite in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, similar to many Middle Eastern countries.

Passengers were apologised to by Iraqi Airways for the delay, described as “beyond the company’s control” because it was caused by cargo transportation, where the animal escaped from its special animal transport cage at Dubai Airport. No additional details regarding the transportation reason, health, or welfare of the bear were disclosed in a statement released by the airline after removing it from the flight.

“After inspecting the aircraft and ensuring there were no damages from the incident, the flight returned to Baghdad.”

Iraq is experiencing challenges in controlling the importation of wild animals to be kept as pets or enforcing laws to protect these creatures. The city police in Baghdad are appealing for citizens’ cooperation in keeping a lookout for dangerous animals on city streets, with the potential to maul others. They also warn about the possibility of these creatures becoming an unusual item on restaurant menus, an instance previously reported to officials.

The shocking bear surprise took place in Dubai International, the world’s busiest passenger airport, facilitating over 1,100 flights daily. The wild animal was filmed wandering the plane’s hold in the airport whilst terrified passengers were asked to disembark.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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