November 29, 2021


documenting the nigerian story…

Hajj: Airlines, travel agencies lament, seek palliatives

Stakeholders in the business of Hajj facilitation have lamented the recent cancellation of Hajj for foreign pilgrims by the Saudi Arabian government over COVID-19 pandemic.

While they described the decision as not unexpected due to what they call a “long silence” from Saudi, they said this implies that Hajj operators would be on a forced holiday for two consecutive years.

Daily Trust reports that the Saudi Ministries of Health and Hajj had last week announced the restriction of 2021 Muslim pilgrimage to only Saudi residents amidst ravaging COVID-19 scare.”

The announcement dashed the hope of Hajj operators including air carriers who had waited patiently for good news from Saudi authorities after the cancellation of last year’s Hajj.

Similarly, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and state pilgrims’ boards had received deposits from intending pilgrims but they have announced plans to refund anyone seeking a refund.

It was gathered that airlines like Max Air and Azman have positioned their aircraft in anticipation of the exercise holding this year.

Speaking with Daily Trust, the Company Secretary of Max Air, Barr. Shehu Wadda disclosed that two of the airline’s B747 aircraft deployed for Hajj airlift have returned from routine maintenance after they were parked throughout last year due to the cancellation.

“The aircraft are back from maintenance ready for Hajj but now there would be no Hajj this year for foreign pilgrims and next year, they would be maintained again. This is a huge loss to us,” he said.

Former President of Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON), Abdulfatah Abdulmojeed who described the cancellation as the will of the Almighty God said Hajj industry should be singled out for palliatives as it has been done for other industries.

He said while the announcement by the Saudi was not unexpected, “It means those in the Hajj industry would be on holiday for two consecutive years.”

Abdulmojeed who is the CEO of Al Qibla International Service (QIS), said apart from paying license fees and taxes to various government agencies like the NAHCON, the NCAA, IATA and the FIRS, they employ thousands of people.

“Almost all our staff have either left or they are being owed salary,” he said.

Also, Vice-President, AHUON, Lagos Zone, Alhaji Qasim Alabi said, “As Muslims, we must take it in good faith.”

Speaking with our correspondent, a travel expert, Mr. Olumide Ohunayo tasked NAHCON to provide palliatives for those in the business of Hajj facilitation.

Meanwhile, intending pilgrims in Taraba State have received the news of the cancellation of the 2021 Hajj with shock.

An intending pilgrim, Ibrahim Lawal, lamented that Hajj was cancelled despite the fact that almost all of them preparing for pilgrimage in the state were vaccinated against COVID-19.

He said many intending pilgrims who paid their fares last year could not travel again this year because of the pandemic.

Another intending pilgrim, Haruna Yakubu, who said that he received the news with shock, stated that the cancellation was a surprise to him because he thought the infection had come down across the globe.