Biman Bangladesh Airlines has been forced to cancel four more hajj flights scheduled for yesterday and today due to shortage of pilgrims.
Earlier on Saturday and Sunday, the national airliner cancelled three dedicated hajj flights on the same ground.
Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Biman Bangladesh Airlines AM Mosaddique Ahmed yesterday told The Daily Star that cancellation of seven hajj flights so far caused uncertainty of performing hajj by around 2,900 pilgrims.
"We are worried about repeated cancellation of hajj flights due to shortage of pilgrims as ferrying those intended hajjis to Saudi Arabia would be difficult for us given the specific number of hajj flights," Mosaddique added.
Of the latest cancelled flights, one was scheduled to fly at 10:25am yesterday and three were scheduled for today, added the Biman boss.
Biman, however, operated three other scheduled hajj flights yesterday carrying more than 1,250 pilgrims, Shakil Meraj, general manager, public relations, Biman, said.
The religious affairs ministry yesterday asked Business Automation Limited, a vendor that provides it with IT services, to give names of the private hajj tour operators who have got visas but failed to send pilgrims on the scheduled dates.
"We will take punitive actions against those hajj agencies who have got visas but yet to take measures to send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia," Abdul Jalil, secretary, religious affairs ministry, told this correspondent over phone.
Hajj officials at Ashkona Hajj Camp said such a situation occurred due to irresponsibility and greediness of the hajj agencies.
Several agencies have yet to strike a deal with the Saudi hajj authorities to rent houses and complete other formalities as they were looking for cheaper options, said a number of Biman and ministry officials.
They alleged that those agencies want to spend less money for house rent, food and other formalities.
"A section of hajj agencies make fortunes from this corrupt process as they want to send hajjis at the eleventh hour to save money from food and accommodation," a former director of Ashkona Hajj Camp and currently involved with Business Automation Limited, told this correspondent.
Another director of the camp said the agencies were waiting to play a dirty game at the end of hajj flights as they would bargain with the government to send pilgrims in replacement quota.
"A section of hajj agencies have registered many fake pilgrims. They will later bargain with the government to send their substitutes mentioning death and serious illness of the fake names," added the director asking not to be identified.
"If they can bring in substitutes, the private tour operators will charge them more money," he added.
The religious affairs ministry said it would take stern action against any hajj agencies if found involved.