A flight from Dubai to Baghdad, operated by Iraqi Airways, was delayed in an unusual incident on Friday. A bear, being transported in the cargo hold, managed to break free from its crate, causing a stir among passengers and crew. The flight was held on the tarmac at Dubai International Airport while animal experts were summoned to sedate and remove the bear.
A video, shared by a UAE newspaper, showed the bear wandering in the plane’s cargo area. In the footage, a man can be seen reaching into the hold and patting the bear on the head. The species of the bear was not immediately disclosed.
Another video circulating on social media featured the plane’s captain apologizing to passengers for the delay, attributing it to the bear’s unexpected escape. The bear was being transported from Dubai to Baghdad when it managed to break free from its crate.
Iraqi Airways, in a statement, absolved itself of any blame for the incident, stating it occurred due to circumstances beyond the airline’s control. The airline maintained that the bear’s transportation procedures were carried out in compliance with laws and standards set by the International Air Transport Association.
The airline’s statement further detailed that the plane’s crew coordinated with UAE authorities who dispatched a specialized team to sedate the bear and remove it from the plane. After ensuring no damage was caused by the incident, the flight proceeded to Baghdad.
Despite the airline’s statement that the bear was being flown from Baghdad to Dubai, a voice in the video claimed the flight was delayed by an hour for its trip to Baghdad, and passengers were asked to disembark until the issue was resolved. An anonymous Iraqi Airways official later confirmed to the Associated Press that the bear was indeed being transported to the Iraqi capital.
In response to the incident, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shayya’ Sabbar al Sudani has ordered an investigation. The trend of keeping wild animals as pets has gained popularity among Baghdad’s affluent class. Local law enforcement has previously urged residents to assist in preventing predatory animals from being released on the streets or ending up as exotic dishes in restaurants by reporting such incidents.