Last Hajj Flight Leaves
THE LAST Hajj flight departed Kotoka International Airport last Sunday, drawing a curtain over the first phase of this year’s exercise.
The second phase entails the return trip, an exercise equally tough for managers of the Hajj given the added luggage that returning pilgrims had on them.
Speaking to DAILY GUIDE yesterday, a day after the departure of the last flight to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Chairman of the Pilgrims Affairs Office, Ghana, Hon Tanko Ibrahim Abdul Rauf gave a thumbs-up for the operation saying ‘everything went on smoothly.’
He said that his office was able to airlift 5490 Ghanaian pilgrims for this year’s Hajj, a little above the 5424 quota set by the Saudi authorities. The difference he explained was because of an inadvertent omission of officials such as members of the medical team and others in the computation but in the end, he said the visa issuing authorities allowed the extra to go.
Soon after the departure of the last batch, the Chairman refunded monies to 29 persons who were unable to make the trip.
Most of those who could not make it, he said, made late payments to their agents thus failing to meet the deadline. One of the challenges faced by the new Hajj authorities was how to airlift the backlog of pilgrims who were unable to make to the Hajj since last year.
‘We have been able to airlift 187 out of a total number of 378 of the backlog,’ Hon Tanko said. Even before the commencement of the pilgrimage, he had explained that he would give priority to fresh pilgrims who make early payments. He however pointed out in an engagement with the media that, he would make room to contain some of such pilgrims on each flight.
Two airlines, Egyptair and NAS, airlifted pilgrims this year, he said, pointing out that ‘we signed a deal with Eyptair for the operation but the Saudi authorities came up with a certain arrangement which limited the Eygptian carrier to a certain number of slots something which compelled us to rely on a local Saudi local carrier, NAS, to support. Egyptair was therefore given 10 slots and the Saudi company 5.’
On the return trips, he added he is unable to tell now when it would commence but was quick to add that ‘when I get to Saudi Arabia, I would work on the possibility of having NAS commence the return trip. The company has a bigger aircraft than Egyptair and we would ensure that pilgrims are not unduly delayed after the religious exercises.’
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