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Clock ticking for stranded hujjaj

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It’s been a waiting game for hundreds of South African hujjaj who have been stranded at the OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg since Monday. The situation arose when the airline reported a technical fault with its plane which was expected to depart from OR Tambo Airport on Monday. Around fifty Cape Town hujjaj were booked into a hotel until the matter is completely resolved.

On Wednesday, the South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) reassured that hujjaj will finally be departing from the airport at 17.45 pm after Saudi Airline put contingency plans to accommodate hujaaj. Sahuc president Shaheen Essop told VOC News the manager for Saudia Airlines called on all affected hujjaj to make their way to the airport to take the scheduled flight at 17h45 to Madina.

“Saudi Airlines have put a contingency plan in place in order to move the 280 and additional 26 hujaaj to Madinah,” Essop said.
Chairperson of the South African Travel and Hajj Operators Association (Sathoa) Sedick Steenkamp urged affected hujaaj to be patient during this time. Steenkamp also reported that the Saudi Airline now plans to put the affected hujaaj on all available airlines out of JHB bound for Jeddah or Madinah.

“Saudi Airlines has another scheduled flight tonight and they will be seeing if they can get everybody into the Saudi Kingdom by tonight, Insha-Allah. We ask our hujaaj to make sabr and ask Allah to make it easy for them during this period,” Steenkamp urged.

But one affected pilgrim stranded at the OR Tambo airport criticised the lack of communication on the part of Saudia Airlines. The hujjaj, who asked not to be named, said the pilgrims have been patiently waiting since Monday and are at their wits end.

“None of the Saudi people are answering their phones. They have just left a notice on the board. We can’t be sure about the new plans to get on this other flight,” she said.

“We can’t go to Jeddah as we did not plan to go there. They are not confirming with us that we are flying. Why are they not bringing in another plane for us?”
She said there were many pilgrims suffering with diabetes and others who are wheelchair bound.

“We feel like we have reached a dead end,” added another pilgrim.

VOC could not reach Saudia Airlines for a comment but will continue monitoring the situation. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)

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