The first hajj flight with 409 pilgrims left for Saudi Arabia from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka at the schedule time on Wednesday.
Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon, Religious Affairs Minister Matiur Rahman and top Biman officials bade farewell to the pilgrims at the airport as Biman Bangladesh Airlines started hajj operation.
The flight of a 419-seated Boeing 777-300ER departed the airport at 7:05am.
Last year Hajj flights started with hiccups as an aircraft Biman leased to carry pilgrims could not fly for not having clearance from the Saudi Arabian civil aviation authority. That disruption of flight schedule caused immense sufferings to pilgrims.
This year Biman decided to carry the pilgrims by its own aircraft for which the national carrier had to suspend flight operations on Dhaka-Delhi and Dhaka-Hong Kong routes as it has engaged three of its wide-body aircraft in Hajj operations.
Although 419 pilgrims were supposed to fly in the first flight yesterday, four pilgrims did not fly due to illness and six others of a family decided not to go as one of their members did not get visa, Menon said in briefing at the airport.
“I’m happy with the management at the Hajj camp and at the airport,” Mahbubur Rahman Patwari told this correspondent before boarding the aircraft. Like him many other pilgrims expressed their satisfactions with the overall management.
Both the ministers pledged to continue the satisfactory service.
Biman will carry 49,378 Hajj pilgrims, out of 98,757, from August 27 to November 8 by 270 flights, including 224 dedicated flights and 46 scheduled flights.
The pre-Hajj flight will continue from August 27 to September 28 and post-Hajj return flights from October 8 to November 8.
The rest of the half Hajj pilgrims will be ferried by Saudia Airlines.
The Saudia Airlines will start flights on September 1 and continue through the month. It will operate post-Hajj flights from October 9 to November 17.