Crisis over Hajj flights deepens

Doha, Kuwait flights to be cut to ferry pilgrims by August 26

Muktadir Rashid | Published: 00:19, Aug 13,2017 | Updated: 01:13, Aug 13,2017

 
 

Biman Bangladesh Airlines has planned to cut its eight flights on Doha and Kuwait routes in order to ferry about 36,000 Hajj pilgrims to Saudi cities by August 26.
Until Saturday morning, Bangladesh flag carrier airlines transported 27,004 out of its 63,599 pilgrims both on dedicated and scheduled flights and the rest 36,595 pilgrims would be carried by August 26 alone by Biman. Saudi Arabian airlines so far transported 30,956 out of 63,599 pilgrims.
Biman officials said that they already applied for additional slots to ferry pilgrims to Saudi cities.
‘If we get the slots, we will cut our eight flights to and from Doha and Kuwait in order to ferry pilgrims in time,’ said Biman general manager Shakil Meraj.
The Biman officials said that the flights to and from Doha and Kuwait were already booked before the Eid-ul-Azha and this decision would create chaos and bad reputation.
Shakil said that they would need to take the decision considering ‘priorities.’
Until Saturday, Biman cancelled 21 dedicated Hajj flights while Saudi Airlines cancelled four scheduled flights due to shortage of pilgrims.
On Saturday, Biman flight BG 9027, scheduled for 1:05pm to depart, was delayed because of non-availability of pilgrims. ‘Situation definitely will depend on the availabilities of the pilgrims on time,’ said Shakil Meraj.
Biman would operate three flights to Jeddah including one scheduled flight and another dedicated Hajj flight BG1061 from Chittagong today.
Hajj officials said that Saudi embassy in Dhaka issued 92,092 visas until August 10 while process of 11,367 others were underway until Saturday evening.
The officials said that visa formalities of over 23,000 others would be complete by August 17.
Still 69,238 pilgrims would need to be airlifted to Saudi Arabia by August 26 employing additional 14 slots and existing dedicated flights, they said.
Biman failed to send more than 11,000 pilgrims on the 20th day of its Hajj operations on Saturday.
The Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh secretary general Shahadat Hossain Taslim said that they were trying hard to send all pilgrims to Saudi Arabia in time.
The religious affairs ministry blamed Hajj service providers, Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh, while the service providers blamed sudden hike in Hajj service fees by Saudi Arabia and additional charges on the repeat pilgrims within two years for the situation.
The government fixed this year’s minimum Hajj package at Tk 3,19,355 for each pilgrim but large number of pilgrims were travelling with cheap offer from private-run Hajj agencies.
None of 4,200 pilgrims, travelling under government-run Hajj services, suffered any trouble so far.

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