A380 Hajj service could change the way pilgrims travel

A380 Hajj service could change the way pilgrims travel
The A380 aircraft is ideal for Hajj service with its high seat capacity, and hence low-unit seat costs.
Updated 29 August 2017

A380 Hajj service could change the way pilgrims travel

A380 Hajj service could change the way pilgrims travel

LONDON: The annual Hajj pilgrimage is big business for those working in aviation, with vast numbers of Muslims from around the world flying in and out of Saudi Arabia.
For tour operators, airlines and brokers, Hajj and Umrah traffic represents a recurring stream of annual revenue.
That steady source of income for many companies could be challenged due to a new competitor for Hajj traffic looming on the horizon.
Malaysia Airlines is looking to launch a Hajj service using its surplus large A380 aircraft. The widely reported plans would involve reconfiguring the current 494-seat layout across three classes on some of its existing super jumbo jets to create a slightly cozier all-economy 700-seat aircraft.
If such plans were to be put in place and prove successful, it could to be a far more cost-effective way to move hundreds of pilgrims at one time in and out of the Kingdom than using smaller planes. “It is a little bit of a game changer for the Hajj traffic,” said Tobias Rueckerl, owner and CEO of Hajjaircraft and its parent company Adavco.
In 2016, 1.3 million Muslims from outside Saudi Arabia traveled to the Kingdom to complete Hajj, with 94 percent of those arriving in the country by plane, according to government statistics.
“The Hajj requires the efficient movement of large volumes of people. The A380 is perfect for this with its high seat capacity, and hence low-unit seat costs. For an airline like Malaysia Airlines with a large Muslim home market, it can find work for most of the year with Umrah pilgrimages driving travel outside of the annual Hajj period itself,” said aviation consultant John Strickland.
Often pilgrims will travel on chartered flights arranged by tour operators or government agencies flying in and out of Jeddah, taking anything from small 5-seater planes to the 200- or 300-seater aircraft typically used by commercial airlines.
Commercial airlines also lease extra planes to run Hajj-specific services. For example, Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) leases Boeing 747 and A330 aircraft to run their Hajj services, said Abdulrahman Altayeb, vice president for corporate communications at Saudi Arabian Airlines.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines needs to lease wide-body aircraft capable of carrying more than 450 passengers in order to transport around 50,000 pilgrims to and from Saudi Arabia each year, said a spokesperson for the company.
Arranging Hajj travel can be a pricey business, for a variety of reasons. “Flights are becoming more and more expensive,” said Rueckerl. Sometimes government agencies can end up paying far more than they need to for aircraft, partly because they leave their Hajj plans to the last minute and are in urgent need of a plane.
Hajjaircraft typically deals with a regular client base — made up of airlines, tour operators and government agencies that come back each year. Nigeria is home to some of the company’s oldest most-established clients, Rueckerl said. “But in other countries it remains difficult — every year it is the same story. If you want state-of-the-art aircraft you have to secure them straight after the current Hajj,” he said, explaining how some countries’ tour operators still do not sufficiently plan ahead.
There is also a level of “fake” demand in the market, Rueckerl said, that has pushed up prices. What this means is that there are many different small brokers and operators all enquiring with the small number of airlines offering Hajj-specific flights, and all chasing the limited number of aircraft available.
The cost of travel could potentially be reduced if Malaysia Airlines deploys the A380 for Hajj. The airline is due to apply for its license this quarter to set up its pilgrimage service as a separate business from the main airline, Bloomberg reported in July, citing the airline’s CEO Peter Bellew.
The service could be operational in a year.
Malaysia Airlines did not respond to a request for comment.
The plans could help the airline generate more income from its surplus A380s.
“You don’t have a secondhand A380 market, and all of the operators are thinking what to do with the aircraft,” said Rueckerl, particularly now that some of the planes are verging on 10 years old.
Traveling by the reconfigured A380 could also be a more cost-efficient option for pilgrims. “The per seat price could be 20-25 percent lower than with a B747. That could make the whole Hajj operation very interesting with this aircraft,” he said. He forecasts that if the Asian airline is successful with its new venture, then other carriers may follow suit.
Already, Emirates has said that it will be operating an A380 service to Madinah to meet the increased demand during Hajj.
The Dubai-based airline also said in its August 17 announcement that it would be operating 45 additional flights to Jeddah and 12 additional flights to Madinah using various aircraft during the pilgrimage.
There are, however, some drawbacks with using larger planes such as the A380.
Smaller countries, particularly in Africa, often lack the infrastructure and airports to handle these super-jumbo jets, Rueckerl said.
“If you have a country like Niger, you have roughly 4,000-5,000 people traveling, but they are not traveling at once, but over a couple of weeks, then an A380 with 700 seats would be too large for them.”
While the A380 may make the Hajj travel market a little more competitive, there will remain pockets of opportunities for the smaller players.


Saudi HR ministry launches tough measures for unvaccinated workers

A nurse speaks to a man before administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine as part of a vaccination campaign by the Saudi health ministry, in Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
A nurse speaks to a man before administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine as part of a vaccination campaign by the Saudi health ministry, in Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
Updated 02 August 2021

Saudi HR ministry launches tough measures for unvaccinated workers

A nurse speaks to a man before administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine as part of a vaccination campaign by the Saudi health ministry, in Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
  • Authorities instruct all institutions to require proof of immunity against COVID-19 from employees

JEDDAH: Unvaccinated employees within the Saudi public, private, and nonprofit sectors will have their leave days deducted until they receive a COVID-19 jab, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has warned.

The ministry issued a statement on Sunday clarifying procedures to deal with unvaccinated employees following the Ministry of Interior’s instruction for institutions to limit entry to vaccinated people after Aug 1.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Saudi Arabia has increased ahead of the deadline, with about 350,000 doses being administered per day, with a total vaccination rate of about 78 doses per 100 people in the Kingdom.
As a result, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development instructed all institutions in the Kingdom to require proof of immunity against COVID-19 from employees and workers, as approved by the Ministry of Health on the Tawakkalna mobile app.
The gradual plan to deal with unvaccinated employees begins with directing them to work remotely, according to the work need. In case remote work is not beneficial for the institution by Aug. 9, the employee will be granted leave deducted from their official leave balance.

HIGHLIGHT

The gradual plan to deal with unvaccinated employees begins with directing them to work remotely, according to the work need. In case remote work is not beneficial for the institution by Aug. 9, the employee will be granted leave deducted from their official leave balance.

As for the public sector, employees will consume their eligible leave days according to their legally approved conditions and requirements. However, if those requirements are not met or the employee has exhausted their leave balance, then absence days must be deducted from the balance of regular leaves or will be considered as an unpaid excused absence.
In the private and nonprofit sectors, employers will allow unvaccinated employees to go on official leave that will be calculated from their annual leave.
In case the annual leave balance is exhausted, employees will be granted unpaid leave, and their work contract will be considered suspended during the period once it exceeds 20 days, unless the two parties agree otherwise.
In case of disagreement with a worker, the employer shall deal with the consequences according to the procedures approved by law. The employee must be informed about decisions issued in this regard.
However, the ministry said that the new regulations do not apply to people who are excluded from taking the vaccine according to the Tawakkalna app.


Only fully jabbed students can return to school, says Saudi Education Ministry

Only fully jabbed students can return to school, says Saudi Education Ministry
Updated 02 August 2021

Only fully jabbed students can return to school, says Saudi Education Ministry

Only fully jabbed students can return to school, says Saudi Education Ministry
  • Primary, kindergarten pupils will return to classrooms once 70% of population has been double-jabbed or October 30

JEDDAH: Only students who have been fully jabbed against COVID-19 can go back to school once the academic year begins on Aug. 29, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Education said on Sunday.
High school and middle school students who have completed their vaccination program in Saudi Arabia are set to return to the classroom by the end of the month.
Elementary and preschool students will be exempt from returning until 70 percent herd immunity has been achieved through double dosage.
Saudi Arabia has so far administered more than 27.2 million vaccine doses and 8.25 million people have received both shots, making up 23.7 percent of the country’s 34.8 million population.
The ministry said appointments would be provided for staff and eligible students to get vaccinated in time for the start of the school year.
At Sunday’s press conference, Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly urged pregnant women to get jabbed. He reaffirmed the vaccines’ safety and efficacy and said a large number of unvaccinated pregnant women around the world had been hospitalized with COVID-19.

FASTFACT

The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 526,814.

He also called on doctors to do their part in communicating the importance of COVID-19 vaccines to pregnant women. “You aren’t just protecting one life, you’re protecting two,” he added.
Exemptions, including cases of medically proven hypersensitivity to the vaccines or one of their components, are determined through reports issued by the ministry.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Abdulrahman Al-Husain said that more than 1 million commercial establishments had followed health precautions to only admit immune customers on the first day that all residents in the Kingdom were required to have had at least one dose or have recovered from COVID-19 in order to enter commercial, government, private and public establishments.
On Sunday there were 1,084 new cases recorded in the Kingdom, bringing the total to 526,814.
There were 1,285 new recoveries, taking this total to 507,374, while 12 new deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 8,249. More than 25.12 million PCR tests have been conducted so far.


Saudi military chief meets Bahraini counterpart

Saudi military chief meets Bahraini counterpart
Updated 51 min 22 sec ago

Saudi military chief meets Bahraini counterpart

Saudi military chief meets Bahraini counterpart

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Chief of the General Staff Gen. Fayyad bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili received Chief of Staff of Bahrain Defense Force Lt. Gen. Dhiyab bin Saqr Al-Nuaimi, and his accompanying delegation, at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh on Sunday.

During the meeting, they exchanged military views and discussed issues of common interest, stressing the strength of relations and ways to achieve the shared goals of the armed forces of the two countries.

Saudi Deputy Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Mutlaq bin Salem Al-Azima, who is also the acting commander of the joint forces, then accompanied Al-Nuaimi on a visit to the Joint Forces Command and briefed him on the progress of the operations led by the Arab coalition forces to support legitimacy in Yemen.

They also discussed ways to support and enhance these to ensure regional security and stability.

Maj. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdul Aziz, commander of the Royal Saudi Air Forces, also received Al-Nuaimi in the Air Force Command. During the meeting, they discussed many issues of common interest.

 

 

 


Who’s Who: Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing 

Who’s Who: Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing 
Updated 02 August 2021

Who’s Who: Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing 

Who’s Who: Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing 

Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad has been the deputy minister for land and survey at the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing since June 2021.

He has been a board member of the Real Estate General Authority, the Saudi Authority for Accredited Valuers and the Off-Plan Sales and Rent Committee (Wafi) since November 2020. He has also been a supervisor of the Idle Lands Program since September 2019.

Prior to that, Al-Hammad was assistant to the deputy minister for land at the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing from September 2019 to June 2021.

He served in several positions at the ministry, working as assistant to the deputy minister for technical affairs from December 2018 to September 2019 and as director of the project management office from January 2018 to December 2018.

From January 2017 to January 2018, Al-Hammad was program manager at the ministry, serving as director of the Eastern Province projects and Alkhobar housing project and as an architectural engineer.

Al-Hammad is passionate about architecture, which is his specialty, and is currently a member of the advisory board of the department of architecture and building sciences at the College of Architecture and Planning at King Saud University.

His areas of interest include digital transformation, and he contributed to transforming the customer experience for one of the products of the Sakani Program into an integrated electronic journey that reduces the process from six months to five minutes. He aspires to transfer the experience to the municipal sector.

Al-Hammad received a bachelor’s degree in architecture and building science from King Saud University in August 2010 and completed the executive leadership development program from Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning in November 2020.


Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Company signs contract KACST to provide satellite data

The images will carry the coordinates of its geographical location. (SPA)
The images will carry the coordinates of its geographical location. (SPA)
Updated 02 August 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Company signs contract KACST to provide satellite data

The images will carry the coordinates of its geographical location. (SPA)
  • The data is collected using satellites to monitor the progress of the Red Sea project
  • It will enable the company to know how the project is progressing and the impact it may have on the environment

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Company signed a contract with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) to provide high-resolution data for key locations at the company’s headquarters.
The data is collected using satellites to monitor the progress of the Red Sea project, which covers an area of ​​28,000 square kilometers, and to track developments in real estate assets more effectively.
The CEO of the Red Sea Development Company, John Pagano, said that this technical work will enable the company to monitor any unexpected effects in the development of real estate assets on the surrounding environment, and work immediately to find alternative solutions.
Pagano said the Red Sea Project’s stakeholders and its affiliates can obtain reliable and detailed images on a monthly basis, adding it was important to understand how the actual development processes affect the natural destination environments.
He also said that this partnership will enable the company to monitor the main assets, both natural and real estate, closely during the construction phase, which will support efforts to lead renewable tourism worldwide.

Pagano added that KACST, through the National Consortium on Remote Sensing in Transportation (NCRST), will capture monthly high-resolution data for the Red Sea project, using the GeoEye-1, WorldView, and Pleiades satellites.
This will allow the images to be color-balanced as they are on the ground, and each will carry the coordinates of its geographical location. The images will be integrated with the company’s Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems and will be available to its employees from the planning, engineering, and environment departments.
The company’s GIS department will periodically compare the data provided by KACST with the latest versions of the master plans and detailed designs of the project to monitor changes and avoid any environmental damage.
The images will be used to determine the best methods and locations to perform construction and development activities. It will also be an important part of the project’s monthly progress reports.
Dr. Talal Alsedairy, the supervisor of the Space and Aeronautics Center at KACST, said that NCRST will support the company by providing them with high-resolution images of the project area that will enable them to have a more comprehensive perspective on how the project is progressing and the impact it may have on the surrounding environment.