With the news of Hajj 1441 being cancelled for South Africans due to the country’s borders remaining closed in a bid to curb the spread of the global pandemic, coronavirus, South African Travel and Haj Operators Association (SATHOA) Chairperson Sedick Steenkamp has advised pensive hujaaj to remain calm as these are unprecedent times for all parties involved.
“We as operators share the sadness with the hujaaj that south africa will not be embarking on hajj 2020, of course we understand the reason for it, our borders are closed as the Saudi’s have yet to make an official announcement,” said Steenkamp.
Steenkamp said even though it may not look like it as first glance, the decision was made in everybody’s best interest.
“We may plan but ultimately Allah is the best of planners and reservation of life takes preference of any other ibaadah [worship],” reminded Steenkamp.
Moving forward Hujaaj are encouraged to make contact with their travel operators.
“The first thing to do is look at the contracts in place and those contracts must be withdrawn or cancelled, that is the first port of call. When these contracts are cancelled it opens up the doors for us to start negotiating with various airlines and hoteliers in the Saudi kingdom so that we can put the process of retrieving refunds into place,” stated Steenkamp.
Steenkamp has called on prospective pilgrims to be patient during this this.
“I don’t think the industry has ever experienced any of the issues that we are facing at the moment. So we are asking the Hujaaj to practice patience while we deal with the issues,” pleaded Steenkamp.
However, Steenkamp mentioned a timeframe can not be given just yet.
“Most of the suppliers in Mecca and Medina are not back at work yet, we are waiting for them to resume work so we may begin this process however one of the main suppliers have already informed us that any deposits for hajj can be used during the umrah season or can be kept over for the hajj season next year, this just gives us some sort of indication on how the suppliers have decided to ensure monies are returned,” stated Steenkamp
Steenkamp said several airlines are looking to reimburse Hujaaj by late August.
“Some of the airlines have indicated that they will give you a voucher and some have indicated that they will issue refunds But it should be noted that not all airlines can afford to do cash refunds as that would cripple them financially,” said Steenkamp.
Steenkamp has assured pilgrims that SATHOA does have a plan in place to ensure all Hujaaj are dealt with justly.
“In terms of us having to manage the situation rest assured that we have a plan B and as soon as everyone is back on board that is the time when we can really sit down with our Hujaaj and really sort this out,” stated Steenkamp.