RETURN FROM HAJJ Pilgrims suffer for flight delay

Mismanagement of government and private hajj operators were causing long delays and immense sufferings to hajis returning home on dedicated Biman hajj flights, according to Biman officials and hajis.

On the first day of the return hajj flights, four flights touched down at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in 24 hours with four to 11 hour delays. The flights carried 1,574 hajis, Motahar Hossain, general manager, central control of Biman told The Daily Star.

The first return hajj flight, carrying 419 hajis, reached Dhaka around 3:00am yesterday. It was scheduled to land at 8:40pm on Saturday, sources in the national flag carrier told The Daily Star.

The second hajj flight reached at 9:20am yesterday. It was scheduled to land at 10:00pm on Saturday, added the source. The third and fourth flights suffered four and five hours delay, said Biman sources.

A top official of Biman said irresponsibility and mismanagement of hajj officials at the Bangladesh hajj mission and hajj guides of private operators were responsible for the delays.

“Hajj officials and guides show an uncaring attitude towards bringing hajis to the airport and that caused delays … ,” the official said requesting not to be named.

GM Motahar Hossain said Biman planes were at the Jeddah airport on time but couldn’t fly as hajj guides and staff did not bring the hajis on time for departure.

While leaving the airport terminal in Dhaka, several hajis shared their bitter experiences and sufferings with this correspondent. Several pilgrims said they had to spend almost an entire night at the Jeddah airport without food and sleep.

“We were ready to face sufferings while performing hajj in the name of Allah as it was a huge congregation and it’s tough to manage everything during hajj. But it’s so painful that our hajj guide didn’t take us to the airport [in Saudi Arabia] on time for which we had to suffer for many hours,” said Amanat Karim aged 70.

“Actually we don’t want to complain about the mismanagement and irresponsibility of hajj tour operators and the government hajj officials in Saudi Arabia as it [the journey] is something religious. We went to perform hajj to please the Almighty,” he said.

Ayesha Momena, another haji said she had to wait for nine hours in Jeddah airport as the hajis of her flight did not reach the airport on time.

“I don’t know who to blame for this mismanagement. We didn’t complain earlier when we were not served food on time and when we were not provided accommodation as promised by the government hajj operator. But it’s really unbearable when you wait for hours on end and you don’t know when it will end,” she added.

Several hajis wishing not to be named alleged that although they went for the pilgrimage under government management, with the hope of better and quality service and accommodation, they were let down in Saudi Arabia.

“The promise was not kept even by the government let alone the private hajj operators,” said a haji.

Another haji told this correspondent that the staff of the Bangladesh hajj mission in Jeddah did not cooperate with hajis. The haji refused to elaborate.

“It’s a holy pilgrimage. We have accepted all the sufferings and pain while performing this holy ritual,” the haji added.

Another haji said at Mina in Saudi Arabia they were served breakfast at 3:00pm and many elderly hajis suffered due to the delay.

Besides, the accommodation and transport facilities provided by the hajj mission were of poor quality, the haji added.

A haji said their hajj agency did not live up to its promise of quality accommodation in Makkah and Madina.

Another haji said in many cases Bangladeshi hajis were also responsible for delays for several reasons. Some carried more and heavier luggage than they were supposed to, which wasted time at the check in.

Asked, Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Golam Moshi said there was a lack of coordination and planning between the religious affairs ministry and Biman. He, however, refuted the allegation that hajj officials of the mission were not carrying out their duties properly.

Source: The Daily Star