The General Authority for Civil Aviation in Saudi Arabia has extended landing permits of Nigerian Hajj carriers from July 4 to July 6.
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, Assistant Director, Public Affairs Division, Mrs Fatima Usara, made this known in a statement on Monday in Abuja.
She explained that the extension was necessitated by excessive flight cancellations and flight delays.
She said from June 10 to June 13, nine flights were cancelled.
This, according to her, was due to reasons ranging from the inability of some States pilgrims’ boards to secure Basic Travel Allowance (BTA) for pilgrims, insufficient funds for Visas and unavailable PCR test results.
She revealed that a total of 13 flights were canceled with another 57 delayed take-offs, seven of which are in two digits, with the highest being 24 hours’ delay.
”It followed by 23 hours delay, 22 hours and lowest in this category are twice 10-hour delays. Only 13 flights left on schedule out of the 65 outbound flights so far witnessed from the country.
”From Monday, July 4, the extension will commence to July 6 for one of the airlines whereas July 4 and 5 have been approved for another airline.
”NAHCON sought the extension to enable it to transport its remaining pilgrims into the Kingdom for 2022 Hajj.
”Out of the 43,008 pilgrims expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia from Nigeria, 27,359, inclusive of 527 staff as well as committees and board members, under the government quota have been conveyed.
”Similarly, over 5,000 out of the 8,097 Tour Operators’ pilgrims with valid visas were moved through scheduled flights and other arrangements.”
She reiterated that no pilgrim would be left behind as long as that individual has valid travel documents.
”To buttress this fact, frequency of outbound flights improved to seven take-offs on Sunday and at full capacity too.
”Thankfully, one of the carriers, FlyNas, with its four aircraft, will fly four times daily thereby moving 1,732 each day.”
Usara, therefore, on behalf of the leadership of NAHCON appealed to intending pilgrims to remain calm and prepared for onward conveyance for the 2022 Hajj.
According to her, the commission regrets any tension and stress intending pilgrims might have experienced during this outbound journey to the holy land.
She said that the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the commission, Zikrullah Hassan, commends Nigerian pilgrims’ resilience and prays that they all attain acceptable hajj whose reward is jannatul Firdaus.
”Hassan assured that NAHCON management will review the operations to make sure that such inconveniences are never repeated.”
Also, Malam Umar Kaila, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of First Planet Travels, the sole agent of Flynas Airline of Saudi Arabia, said Flynas was ready and willing to ensure that no Nigerian pilgrims is left behind.
” As long as we get the right slots. We have four aircraft available for the transportation of Nigerian pilgrims. The issue now is the slots that will give us permission to go in and out of Saudi Arabia.
” It can be very limited but I believe going by our current operation most of the Nigerian pilgrims will be able to be in Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage.
” So, I don’t think the pilgrims should have anything to fear about their transportation to Saudi Arabia. Flynas is ready and willing to partner with NAHCON to ensure that all pilgrims that paid will participate in this year’s hajj.”
Kaila disclosed that NAHCON allocated about 11,000 pilgrims to flynas to transport them to Saudi Arabia and as at Sunday, July 3, the airline was able to transport 10,415.
” If not for the flight delay arising from the inability of states pilgrims to mobilise pilgrims on time by now we will have finished transporting all the pilgrims allocated to us.
” We came up with a schedule that will enable us to evacuate all the 11,000 pilgrims that were allocated to Flynas. We were ready to deploy four aircraft to finish the operation by June 27.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that on June 26, NAHCON said that its request for more slots to enable more Nigerians to participate in this year’s Hajj exercise was turned down by the authorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Hajj body had requested for additional 5,000 slots to be distributed among State pilgrims’ welfare boards, subscribers through the Hajj Savings Scheme as well as private tour operators.