The travel of some 1,000-1,500 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia to perform this year’s Hajj looks uncertain as Hajj agencies are yet to confirm their air tickets.
They will not be able to fly for Saudi Arabia if their air tickets are not confirmed within a couple of days, said sources at Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
The Saudi authorities have clearly said that no additional slots for Hajj flights will be allocated this year.
A total of 15 Hajj flights, each with a capacity of 400 passengers, have been cancelled as of Tuesday for lack of passengers.
General manager (public relations) of Biman Bangladesh Airlines Shakil Meraj admitted the issue, saying 3,000 tickets are yet to be confirmed till date.
Citing flight data, he said a total of 92,708 Bangladeshi Hajj pilgrims - 47,635 by Biman flights and 45,073 by Saudi Airlines flight - have flown to Saudi Arabia as of Tuesday morning.
The national flag carrier was deprived of revenue to the tune of US$1475 per passenger.
Before the commencement of Hajj flights this year, acting civil aviation and tourism secretary Mohibul Haque had said as per Saudi Arabia’s directives, there will be no additional flights this year.
Meanwhile, as per the requests from owners of Hajj agencies and pilgrims, the government had increased the replacement facilities for pilgrims from 4 per cent to 15 per cent in two phases.
Many pilgrims were reported to have their visas refused, hence unable to confirm their tickets, which led to the flight cancellations.
This year, a total of 127,198 people are going to Saudi Arabia from Bangladesh for performing Hajj.
Bangladesh Biman is carrying 63,599 pilgrims operating 187 flights. Of them, 7,198 are going under the government management and rest 56,401 under private management.
The pilgrims are going to Saudi Arabia through 528 Hajj agencies. The Hajj flights will continue till August 15 and the return hajj flights are scheduled to begin on August 27 and will continue till September 25.
Religious affairs secretary Anisur Rahman said that a total of 92,708 Hajj pilgrims have so far reached Saudi Arabia.
He also said some 124,000 pilgrims have got their visas and 3,000 are yet to receive those.
The deadline of issuing visas which was scheduled to end on August 7 was extended by two more days.
The cancellation of Hajj flights will not pose any problem as all the pilgrims will be able to perform Hajj within the stipulated time of travel, the secretary said.
About the reasons behind flight cancellations, he cited lack of information in advance which prevented them from taking alternative measures.
He added that 9000 Hajj pilgrims from 41 agencies had been at risk of not being able to perform Hajj, but through the ministry’s coordination, 7000 have completed necessary papers to acquire visas, with the others to follow the suit.
If any agency is found involved in any anomaly, action will taken against it, Ansiur said.
Shahadat Hossain Taslim, secretary general of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh, urged all the agencies to confirm the tickets of their pilgrims so that they can perform Hajj without any complications this year.
Indian citizen held with US $40,000 at Benapole
United News of Bangladesh . Benapole
Customs officials arrested an Indian national along with US dollar 40,000 from the international check post at Benapole Port on Tuesday afternoon.
The arrestee was identified as SK Jishan, son of SK Moshraf Hossain of Iqbalpur in Kolkata, West Bengal.
Tipped off, a team of Customs department conducted a drive in the passenger’s terminal of the check post and arrested SK Jishan along with the US dollars, officials said.
The seized US dollars were deposited to the Customs House and a case was filed with Benapole Port police station in this connection.
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