Twelve hajj agencies are yet to complete visa procedures of around 2,400 pilgrims, creating uncertainty over their pilgrimage this year, said top officials at the Ashkona Hajj Camp.
“The religious affairs ministry has sent letters to the 12 hajj agencies and warned them of tough action if they fail to complete all formalities and apply for the visas by tomorrow,” Saiful Islam, director at the camp, told The Daily Stat at his office.
He said so far 84,418 pilgrims got visas. Of them, 50,217 had left for Saudi Arabia until yesterday morning.
Meanwhile, Biman Bangladesh Airlines yesterday expressed “serious concern” over being able to send all pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. It had to cancel several flights due to inadequate number of pilgrims.
Since the hajj flights began on July 24, Biman failed to carry 9,887 passengers and incurred a loss of Tk 40 crore for cancellation of 19 hajj flights as hajj agencies could not ensure visas or tickets for the pilgrims, said AM Mosaddique Ahmed, Biman chief executive officer and managing director.
In the last three days, the national flag carrier was forced to cancel seven hajj flights, two of them yesterday, he told reporters at a briefing in Biman's Balaka office.
Biman has so far flown some 70 flights and sent 24,115 pilgrims, which is 38 percent of total pilgrims the national flag carrier is supposed to carry, the Biman MD said, adding that they would have carried 54 percent of the pilgrims by now if the complexities had not been there.
Some 127,198 pilgrims from Bangladesh are scheduled to perform hajj this year.
The national flag carrier's hajj flights would continue until August 26.
“Sending of all pilgrims might be very tough for us if we are forced to cancel more hajj flights in the coming days,” said the Biman boss, adding, “There is a possibility of cancelling three more flights in the next two or three days.”
The Biman boss called upon the authorities concerned to extend their all-out cooperation to send all pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Asked, he said a section of hajj agencies' failure and irresponsibility in arranging accommodation for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia was one of the main reasons behind hajj flight cancellations.
“Although there are many pilgrims who have got their visas and are waiting to go to Saudi Arabia, the respective hajj agencies didn't ensure their tickets as they are yet to ensure pilgrims' accommodation in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
He said as far as he knew, pilgrims of other countries do not face such sufferings. “In other countries, most of the pilgrims are sent to hajj under the government management. But in our country, most of the pilgrims perform hajj under private hajj management.”
14 LANDING SLOTS
At yesterday's briefing, the Biman boss said they got permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Saudi Arabia to operate 14 special hajj flights to cope with those who had missed their flights. Around 4,687 pilgrims would be able to go to Saudi Arabia in the flights.
But he said of the 14 landing slots, Biman would not be able to use more than seven to eight slots due to shortage of aircraft and inconvenient flight schedules.
"We'll ask the Saudi government to arrange more convenient slots so that we can operate all special hajj flights," he added.