August 24, 2016 - 10:12am
Biman yesterday got permission from the Saudi Arabian authorities to operate 15 extra hajj flights, which should remove the uncertainty of at least 5,400 people performing their hajj.
“It's a very good news for our hajis that Biman got permission from the Saudi Arabian civil aviation authority to operate 15 extra hajj flights, which apparently would remove the uncertainty of 5,485 people in making the pilgrimage in Makkah,” Sanowar Hossain, general manager, flight operation (central control), Biman, told The Daily Star.
Since the national flag carrier launched this year's hajj flights on August 4, it was forced to cancel at least 15 hajj flights due to shortage of hajjis. Those flights could have carried over 5,500 pilgrims to Jeddah, Biman officials said.
Due to shortage of hajis, Biman flew flights with over 600 unoccupied seats. Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh and the Religious Affairs Ministry blame each-other for their “irresponsibility and insincerity” that left many intended hajjis unable to fly to Saudi Arabia, sources said.
Against this backdrop, the fate of over 6,000 hajjis became uncertain unless Biman got extra slots.
Apart from these, several hundred hajjis, who have managed to get visas, were yet to fly since they could not get tickets. Hajj agencies were yet to confirm their tickets and flight schedule, sources at Haab and Hajj Office at Ashkona Hajj Camp told The Daily Star.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines have been selected by the government to carry the pilgrims this year.
A total of 1,01,758 Bangladeshis are expected to perform hajj this year, likely to be held on September 12 subject to the sighting of the moon.
Saudi civil aviation authority granted 112 slots to Biman to carry over 50,500 hajjis but cancellation of 15 flights caused concerns.
Motahar Hossain said with its dedicated 51 hajj flights and 19 other scheduled flights, Biman so far carried 24,307 hajjis to Jeddah and was hoping to carry the rest of the hajjis using the extra hajj flights within the last date, September 5.
"It was not possible for Biman to carry all the aspirant pilgrims who are now in Dhaka, unless Biman got permission for more slots from the Civil Aviation Authority of Saudi Arabia," he added.
A Biman official said if dedicated hajj flights seemed not enough to send all hajjis to Jeddah, they would still be able to send another 500 to 600 hajjis to Saudi Arabia.
HAJJIS FORM HIUMAN CHAIN
Frustrated intended pilgrims yesterday formed a human chain and held a protest rally in Trishal of Mymensingh as their hajj agents had rescheduled their flights four times.
Some 70 pilgrims, including 22 women from Sirajganj, Tangail, Jamalpur and Mymensingh, were confirmed to fly on August 5 by a hajj agency.
The date was rescheduled four times later by Ali Asharaf, proprietor of Mauna Travels and Tours in Gazipur, reports our correspondent from Mymensingh.
The agency finally gave the pilgrims a fresh date for their flight on August 28 but that too was rescheduled for September 4.
The pilgrims also held a protest rally and submitted memorandums to the prime minister and minister for religious affairs through Trishal upazila nirbahi officer.
Phones of the officials of the agent remained switched off for the last two days.