Passengers at Dubai International Airport faced delays on Friday after a bear escaped in the hold of a departing Iraqi aircraft.
The Iraqi Airways plane was destined for Baghdad but was reportedly delayed by an hour due to the incident. Passengers were asked to disembark while the bear was sedated and removed from the plane.
Iraq's prime minister has ordered an investigation into how the animal broke out.
Video circulating on social media shows escaped bear
Iraqi Airways said it wasn't to blame for the bear's escape. The aircraft's crew worked with authorities in the United Arab Emirates, which dispatched specialists to sedate the animal and remove it from the plane.
A video clip circulating on social media showed the plane’s captain apologising to passengers for Friday's takeoff delay because of the bear's escape from its crate in the cargo hold.
Iraqi Airways said Saturday that procedures to transport the bear were carried out in accordance with the law and with procedures and standards approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The plane was flying to the Iraqi capital
The airline said the bear was being flown from Baghdad to Dubai. But a person speaking on the video clip making the social media rounds suggested otherwise, saying the aircraft was an hour late for its trip to Baghdad and that passengers were being asked to disembark until the issue was resolved.
Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, declined to comment.
An Iraqi Airways official confirmed on Sunday that the bear was, in fact, being transported to the Iraqi capital. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not authorised to speak about the matter publicly, declined to name the animal's owner.
Why was there a bear in the hold of a plane?
Keeping predatory animals as pets in Iraq - especially in Baghdad - has become popular among the wealthy.
Authorities have struggled to enforce legal provisions to protect wild animals. Baghdad’s police has previously called on citizens to assist authorities in preventing such animals from being let loose on the city's streets or ending up as exotic meals in restaurant by reporting such cases.