South Africans will not be able to perform umrah following a global suspension of travel to the Saudi Kingdom in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The South African Haj and Umrah Operators Association (SATHOA) has confirmed that Saudi Haj ministry has suspended umrah visas for the upcoming umrah season. This has placed enormous pressure on local umrah operators and there is uncertainty on how it will impact on booked flights to the Kingdom.
“There are infections in Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Iran and Kuwait and these countries are in close proximity to Saudi Arabia. Until the Saudi authorities can put a handle on the outbreak in their country, they’ve put a temporary block on all travel to the region,” SAHUC president Shaheen Essop.
The Saudi Kingdom issued an alert on Thursday. READ HERE:
“Unfortunately, all the airlines have different rules and regulations so this is not something that can be covered by IATA,” said Sedick Steenkamp, chairperson of SATHOA.
Steenkamp warned that mu’tamireen who have departed for the Saudi Kingdom and are currently in-transit may be deported back home and there would be cost implications for the cancelled flights. Travellers will find themselves in a predicament if they do not have travel insurance.
“We hope the airlines will come to the party for the travellers who have cancelled. This situation is not due to the fault of the travel agent so we will need to find a common ground with the airlines and mu’tamireen.”
Those travellers who are waiting for interconnecting flights are advised to rather return home or travel in that specific country. SATHOA will hold an urgent meeting with travel operators to discuss the challenges.