Hajj uncertain for 15,000 pilgrims
The fate of around 15,000 Hajj pilgrims of 143 private hajj agencies is hanging in the balance as the agencies are yet to arrange their visas and plane tickets.
It is not sure when they would be able to fly to Saudi Arabia as many Biman flights have already been cancelled, said Haab and Biman sources.
The state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines will incur a huge loss as 14 Hajj flights have been cancelled till yesterday, said AM Mosaddique Ahmed, managing director and CEO of Biman.
The national flag carrier might cancel another flight today as its passengers were yet to get visas, he told The Daily Star.
Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (Haab) President Ibrahim Bahar yesterday said Hajj agents could not confirm air tickets for around 15,000 pilgrims until the visas were issued to them.
Asked whether the agencies would take the responsibility for non-issuance of visas, Bahar said the Hajj agents did not have any liability for this. The religious affairs ministry must be held responsible, he added.
“It would be a disaster if such a large number of pilgrims cannot travel to Saudi Arabia. But we hope the problem would be over soon.”
The Hajj agents paid the required fees to the religious affairs ministry to deposit it with the authorised Saudi bank by June 30. But the government didn't complete the necessary procedure to get clearance from the Saudi authorities for the visas, claimed the Haab chief.
The Biman MD said over 5,000 pilgrims were scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia by the 14 Biman flights.
“We are trying to reschedule the cancelled flights to ensure that all the pilgrims can go to Saudi Arabia. We will arrange additional flights and give priority to pilgrims over the general passengers,” he added.
The Biman authorities have instructed the Hajj agencies to confirm the pilgrims' plane tickets 72 hours ahead of their departure.
Haab President Bahar said some 45,000 pilgrims have flown to Saudi Arabia till date.
“We have information that 73,000 pilgrims have been granted visas while 30,000 more have been awaiting visas,” he said.
Abdul Jalil, acting secretary of the religious affairs ministry, last night said the flights were cancelled as the hajj agents did not confirm tickets in time.
“More than 72,000 pilgrims got visas, but only 51,000 went to Saudi Arabia. So why did not the agents confirm the tickets of the rest?” he questioned.
There should be a thorough investigation into the cancellation of flights to find out those responsible for the mismanagement, the official added.
Jalil said out of the 483 hajj agencies, 325 have confirmed visas for pilgrims.
“We have requested the Biman to arrange 10 additional flights to carry the pilgrims who missed the scheduled flights,” he mentioned.
The Biman and Saudia Airlines are expected to operate 144 and 107 Hajj flights from Bangladesh, said a press release of the civil aviation ministry. The two airlines have been selected by the government for carrying Hajj pilgrims.
The holy Hajj is likely to be performed on September 12, subject to sighting of the moon. A total of 1,01,758 Bangladeshis are expected to perform Hajj this year. Only 10,000 of them would perform the holy ritual under government management and the rest under private management.
The outbound flights would continue till September 5 and the return flights would begin on September 17.