Airlines move to ease hajj flight mess
Biman Bangladesh and Saudi Arabian Airlines yesterday used their full capacity, for the first time in around a week, to carry pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Neither of the airlines had to cancel any flight due to shortage of passengers.
It gave new hopes for at least 6,580 pilgrims, who missed their flights mainly because of delays in getting visas, officials of the national airlines of Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia said.
Biman was forced to cancel 12 hajj flights while Saudi Arabian Airlines cancelled four since July 27 as private hajj tour operators failed to send on due date, Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon told reporters on Wednesday.
Aiming to carry a total of 1.27 lakh pilgrims, Biman yesterday sought permission from the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia to operate 20 additional dedicated hajj flights, Saiful Islam, director of Ashkona Hajj Camp told The Daily Star.
Abdul Jalil, secretary of the religious affairs ministry, said Biman and Saudi Airlines carried 32,525 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia till yesterday morning. The number increased by 10,000, compared to the same period last year.
Meanwhile, religious affairs ministry yesterday warned of legal actions against private hajj tour agencies responsible for visa complications of pilgrims.
"The hajj flights were cancelled due to negligence of hajj agencies. Legal actions, including cancellation of licenses, will be taken against them," Motiur Rahman, minister of religious affairs said at a press briefing at the Ministry.
Biman General Manager (Public Relation) Shakil Meraj told The Daily Star that four packed hajj flights of the national flag carrier left for Saudi Arabia yesterday.
However, a flight scheduled to leave Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 10:15am yesterday has been delayed by 48 hours, he added.
Abdul Jalil, secretary of the religious affairs ministry, said, “I strongly believe there will be no more problems in this regard if Biman does not have to cancel its flights.”
He added that visas for 60,000 pilgrims have already been obtained and 25,000 of them are all set to fly. Getting visas for the rest of the pilgrims are underway, he also said.
REPEAT PILGRIMS HAVE TO PAY EXTRA Tk 44,000
Ashkona Hajj Camp Director Saiful Islam said the Saudi government yesterday informed its Bangladesh counterpart that each repeat pilgrim must pay an additional Saudi Riyals 2000 [Tk 44,000].
He also said the religious affairs ministry in a circular would inform hajj agencies about the matter.
There are 5,600 pilgrims who had performed hajj in the last five years, said Abdul Jalil.
Hajj agencies had been refusing to pay the extra charge.