The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) says the majority of hujajj have received a 100percent refund of monies paid to hajj operators. South African hujajj did not travel to Saudi Arabia this year, due to global travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Sahuc president Shaheen Essop emphasised that the refunds were for “land arrangements” as the airlines’ refunds processes are not in place yet.
“When we talk about land arrangements, we know some operators had paid deposits to hotels in Saudi Arabia. However, those who had not done so and retained their money in South Africa, they should have paid 100 percent back to hujjaj.”
Some of the operators have reached out to Sahuc to assist them to repatriate money from the Saudi Kingdom. Essop said this meant engaging with Dirco, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the Muassah. The six companies are Al Jeem, Khidmatul Awaam, World of Travel, Shafiqs, Travel Unlimited and Yasmine’s Travels. Essop said all accredited hajj operators have until the 11 September to refund the hujjaj 100 percent .
“We are highlighting the process to the pilgrims. If hujjaj have not received 50 percent of the land arrangements yet, they need to consult with Sahuc and their operators.”
But the South African Muslim Travel Operators Association (Samtoa) – a newly amalgamate travel organisation, said it’s unlikely that the refunds will be completed by September 11th. In a statement, they said members are working extremely hard to ensure that deposits paid to airlines, hoteliers and service providers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are refunded to them as soon as possible.
“Once these funds are refunded and show in their accounts, the respective Hajj Operator will refund hujaaj for money paid to secure their 1441/2020 Hajj package. As International airlines are not yet operating in South Africa, and local offices are working remotely, Hajj Operators and travel agents are constantly in contact with skeleton airline staff to speed up refund of deposits paid to them to secure seats for Hajj 1441. It is unlikely that a September 11 deadline date for all refunds would be met,” said Samtoa.
The travel fraternity said it’s committed to ensuring that hujaaj funds are rightfully returned to them.
“It is an Amaanah that we are acutely aware of and one that we intend to carry out.”
The organisation said operators have already waived all administration fees and have obtained assurances from our counterparts in Saudi that no penalties will be charged for the cancellation of hajj for international travellers due to COVID-19.
Sahuc has urged hujjaj who have not received their full payment from other accredited hajj operators, to contact the haj regulator.