Biman Bangladesh Airlines yesterday started Hajj operation with the first flight with 409 pilgrims departing the capital's Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport for Saudi Arabia on schedule.
Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon, Religious Affairs Minister Matiur Rahman, and top Biman officials bade farewell to the pilgrims at the airport.
The 419-seater Boeing 777-300ER took off at 7:05am.
Last year, Hajj flights started with hiccups as an aircraft Biman leased to carry pilgrims could not fly for not having clearances from the Saudi Arabian civil aviation authority. The disruption of flight schedule had caused immense sufferings to pilgrims.
This year, Biman has 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 since it has engaged three of its wide-body airplanes in Hajj operations.
Although 419 pilgrims were supposed to be 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, a pilgrim, told this correspondent before boarding the aircraft. Like him many other pilgrims expressed their satisfactions at the overall management.
Both the ministers pledged to continue the satisfactory service.
Before and after Hajj, Biman will carry 49,378 pilgrims, out of 98,757, between August 27 and November 8 by 270 flights, including 224 dedicated flights and 46 scheduled flights.
The pre-Hajj flights will continue from August 27 to September 28 and post-Hajj return flights from October 8 to November 8.
The remaining half of the Hajj pilgrims will be ferried by Saudi Airlines, which will start flights on September 1. Its post-Hajj flights will continue from October 9 to November 17.