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More hajj flights to be cancelled

  • Published at 12:49 am August 9th, 2017
  • Last updated at 03:59 pm August 9th, 2017
More hajj flights to be cancelled
With 16 hajj flights cancelled already, Biman Bangladesh Airlines authorities still fear that they may have to cancel more flights due to lack of pilgrims. The airlines is likely to hold a press conference on Wednesday to explain the situation to the media as they had to cancel three hajj flights, two were rescheduled and one was regular, on Tuesday. Biman officials blamed the hajj agencies for delay in completing the process and formalities needed to board the flights. The agencies, however, denied the allegations and rather blamed the hajj office for delay in passport verification process. “Biman is always ready to operate the scheduled hajj flights on time. But it’s impossible to run a flight without a sufficient number of passengers,” Biman spokesperson Shakil Meraj told the Dhaka Tribune. He feared that they might need to cancel more hajj flights in the days ahead because of lack of pilgrims. Sources said although the pilgrims received passport and visa,  houses were yet to be rent, for which the agencies are responsible. The people concerned alleged that the agencies intentionally delay to rent houses so pilgrims go late and return early. The agencies do this to increase their profit margins by forcing the pilgrims to stay short in Saudi Arabia and thus reducing the cost, the sources said. But hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (Haab) Secretary General Shahadat Hossain Taslim denied the allegations. He instead blamed the government’s hajj office for not getting “proper cooperation,” especially in verification of passports. He said the officials involved with the passport verification process come to office at as late as 11am-1:30pm, leading to delay in completing the process. However, the visa processing system in the Saudi embassy and the operation of hajj flights have become smooth during the last two days, Taslim said. The government expects over 40,000 pilgrims may not perform hajj this year due to problem in visa processing. The Biman was supposed to carry 63,599 pilgrims this year. The Saudi government imposed 2,000 riyals (Tk44,000) for those who already performed hajj in 2015 and 2016, creating the crisis.