After the delay of the over 48 hours at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, over 200 hujaaj will now be restricted to less time on haj. Speaking to VOC News, travel operator and owner of XL Flywell Travel, Osman Ahmed said that most hujjaj spent eight to nine days in Madina. However, given this week’s hassle, the affected pilgrims will now only have seven nights, ultimately resulting in them not being able to complete their forty salahs. Ahmed blames Saudia Airlines for not providing alternative arrangements within a suitable time frame, to accommodate affected hujaaj.
Saudi Airlines experienced a technical fault when one of its aircrafts could not take off earlier this week. A group of fifty hujaaj from Cape Town were then booked into a hotel until the situation could be resolved. Ahmed explained that there were other ways the airline could have managed the situation.
“In my professional opinion, if there was a technical delay, the airline should have done an involuntary re-routing for all the passengers, via any other point, at their own expense to get them to their destination as soon as possible. In this case, Saudi Airlines did not do that. By delaying them for 24 hours and then another 24 hours is unacceptable,” Ahmed stated.
Furthermore, Ahmed said that contracts with the Minsitry of Hajj cannot be altered, adding that if it is altered in anyway it would ultimately mean Makkah will be affected later on in the trip.
“We understand that an aircraft can have a delay but there are regulations to ensure that the passengers who paid for the airline get from point A to point B. The [Saudi Airlines] have had many other aircrafts leave for the Middle East, I believe they have failed the guests of Allah,” Ahmed added.
Delays of this nature could create chaos in the system details at the Hajj Ministry. According to Ahmed, haj operators working through SAHUC have to upload each and every detail of the pilgrims’ itinerary into the system and when it has been altered, this could create chaos at a later stage and result in extra payment fees.
Ahmed has now encouraged pilgrims to approach their operators to try and get an invoice from the hotel concerned, in order to take action and receive compensation. Ahmed says operators will be taking action on behalf of local pilgrims as Saudia Airlines managed the situation poorly and not acting in the interest of the guest of Allah.
Saudi Airlines country manager, Shahied Rashied said the airline is not permitted to issue a statement on the incident at this point. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)