No airport havoc this Haj, says Saudia official

Saudi Arabian AirlinesRIYADH: Saudi Arabian Airlines is expecting to operate at least 3,000 flights during the Haj season.

According to Saudia spokesperson Abdullah Al-Ajhar, the airline has rented 32 aircraft from other companies to bolster its existing fleet of 100 planes.According to Al-Ajhar, there will be no repeat of the airport chaos that blighted the Umrah season.“It is a regular occasion that needs great efforts by all bodies concerned,” said Al-Ajhar, adding that Saudia and other government institutions involved in providing pilgrimage services have operation rooms to help coordinate with each other effectively.

Al-Ajhar revealed that the airline’s preparations for the holy season starts very early with making contacts with Haj agencies in countries that send pilgrims.“We have signed agreements with Haj groups in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Morocco, Iran and others, to provide for us early estimates of the numbers of people coming for Haj,” said Al-Ajhar.Based on these figures, Saudia has started planning for the influx of pilgrims and allocated aircraft accordingly, he said.

“There are centers that categorize or split people into groups for departure to Makkah even before they arrive at the airport,” said Al-Ajhar.He blamed the chaotic situation at the Jeddah airport toward the end of Ramadan on Umrah pilgrims who were trying to leave even though they did not have confirmed reservations.Al-Ajhar said many pilgrims did not abide by baggage rules and they came carrying bags and boxes that were overweight or oversize, which jammed screening machines and caused conveyor belts to break down.“We are using an early awareness program this year by sending out 2 to 3 million brochures to the countries where pilgrims come from,” said Al-Ajhar. – Arabnews