Around six million foreign pilgrims have traveled through the Haj Terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah during this year to perform Umrah, said Abdul Hameed Abalarry, director of the airport, yesterday. “One hundred Umrah flights have departed from the Haj Terminal daily since 27th of Ramadan till last Saturday and this number will rise up to120 during the coming three days,” Abalarry said. He spoke about the coordination between the Haj Ministry and the General Authority of Civil Aviation in dispatching pilgrims to the airport, saying the ministry has agreed not to send any pilgrim to the airport without confirmed booking. GACA officials at the Haj Terminal’s entrance make sure that only those pilgrims with confirmed booking are allowed to enter the airport in order to avoid overcrowding of passengers. Various government departments such as police, traffic and aviation are working together for the smooth departure of pilgrims.
“The pilgrims from GCC countries are leaving through the airport’s North and South Terminals,” one official said. This will reduce the rush at the Haj Terminal, he added.
Meanwhile, Al-Madinah Arabic daily reported yesterday that a huge number of pilgrims have thronged the Haj Terminal awaiting for their return flights. The paper carried photos of pilgrims sitting and lying in the premises of the airport. It said many pilgrims had expressed their dissatisfaction over the delay in return flights. Essam Fouad Noor, executive director of KAIA, said that the number of pilgrims departed from the airport reached 78,765. KAIA is one of the biggest airports in the Kingdom, which receives flights from all over the world. It is the main gateway of pilgrims coming for Haj and Umrah.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian Airlines said it would operate 384 flights to transport returning Umrah pilgrims. “Saudia’s top management gives utmost importance to the transportation of pilgrims. It has introduced an independent sector for Haj and Umrah service,” said Walid Al-Oloumi, acting EVP for public relations at the airlines.
He said the new department would conduct studies on markets that send a large number of pilgrims for Haj and Umrah and set out strategies to improve services to pilgrims by operating more flights. Al-Oloumi said the completion of KAIA’s expansion within the next two years would bring about dramatic improvement in Saudia’s services. He said the airline has set out a big plan for the peak Umrah season during Ramadan. “We have mobilized all our resources to serve the guests of God,” he added.