According to media reports in Saudi Arabia, Hajj operators may soon be required to take on the additional task of shipping the luggage of hujaaj to and from the Saudi Kingdom.
Addressing the reports, chairperson of the South African Travellers and Hajj Operators Association (Sathoa), Sedick Steenkamp, said such an announcement would only be confirmed once The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) visited the Kingdom to sign its hajj protocols for 2016, around the end of March.
“At this stage we’ve heard the announcement, but details of that, if it is going to be implemented this year, we’d know when we go over to the Kingdom to sign the hajj protocols,” he declared.
Steenkamp stressed that operators were uncertain as to what the new regulations would entail, including whether this would equate to additional cost for pilgrims.
He also expressed confusion as to how operators would be expected to transport the luggage, considering they had no authority to personally check-in luggage on behalf of passengers.
“We need to find out on what basis this needs to be done, and how we as travel agents are supposed to ship out the luggage.
“At this stage I can say that if it is so, that travel agents will be required to ensure the luggage of hujaaj is shipped to and from the Kingdom, of course there would be a charge,” he stated.
Steenkamp further revealed that over the recent December umrah season a number of pilgrims experienced luggage related issues, however he was unable to confidently attribute this to the Saudi authorities’ apparent decision to shift luggage responsibilities into the hands of operators.
“It is going to be an extra logistical issue that we will have to look at, if it is going to be implemented. We are going to have to plan for it very carefully,” he concluded. VOC