Arabian civil aviation authority to operate 12 extra hajj flights that might clear the backlog of pilgrims who had earlier missed their flights due to visa complications.
“Biman yesterday got approval to operate 12 additional hajj flights. Of those, first two flights will leave Hazrat Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong tomorrow [today] carrying 838 pilgrims who missed hajj flights earlier,” Saiful Islam, director, Ashkona Hajj Camp, told The Daily Star last night.
Talking to this correspondent, Religious Affairs Secretary Abdul Jalil yesterday assured that all 1.27 lakh pilgrims including those who missed their hajj flights would fly to Saudi Arabia within the deadline of August 26.
He added around 70,000 pilgrims got visas as of yesterday morning, while 1.7 lakh potential pilgrims have submitted their documents to get the visas.
Abdul Jalil alleged that Biman has yet to provide them with the lists of travel agencies who they distributed air tickets to sell those among the hajj agencies.
“The religious affairs ministry has sought the lists several days ago, but Biman Bangladesh Airlines and the respective ministry have failed to provide it,” he said, adding, “We could identify how many air tickets were distributed among whom and if there were any irregularities in ticket sale.
“We could check how many tickets have been sold and to whom those tickets were sold if we got the list. I don't know why Biman is not providing us with the list.”
Sources at the hajj agencies said unscrupulous travel agents want to create an artificial ticket crisis to get extra price from the hajj agents.
Biman General Manager (public relations) Shakil Meraj yesterday said the national airliner has so far been forced to cancel 14 hajj flights and failed to send 8,036 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand, the Saudi Arabian Airlines also cancelled three flights that could carry around 1,200 pilgrims.
On permission to operate extra hajj flights, he said the authorities do not want to disclose information about it due to “strategic reasons.”
The religious affairs minister on Saturday said Biman had requested the Saudi authorities to give permission to operate 20 extra hajj flights to carry all pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Officials at the Bangladesh Hajj Mission in Saudi Arabia said all hajj agencies would have to submit necessary documents to the Saudi authorities to get the pilgrims' visas by August 17.
The religious affairs secretary said they have already warned the hajj agencies to complete all formalities and apply for visas within the deadline.