Belt blues: Thousands fly out without luggage from Jeddah airport
A conveyor belt at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) crashed under the influx of baggage on the first day of Eid, resulting in thousands of passengers having to travel without their luggage.
Operations were largely back to normal by Wednesday amid a frenzy of travelers leaving the Kingdom after performing Umrah and many who left during the Eid break.
“A conveyor belt at the southern terminal broke down and remained defective for several hours on the first day of Eid,” said Khalid Al-Khaibari, a spokesman for the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), in a statement issued Wednesday.
“The conveyor belt was restored and GACA has instructed airliners to deliver thousands of pieces of luggage to passengers at their destinations,” he said.
Several airliners operated additional flights to meet increased demand.
All three domestic, international and Haj terminals report peak levels of passenger movement during the Eid holidays that follow the end of Ramadan, with Egypt, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh being among the top destinations.
Around 120,000 passengers have traveled through the airport during this period, according to authorities.
A source at KAIA told Arab News that there were no delays in departures and that all of the airliners stuck to schedule to avoid huge fines.
Saudi Arabian Airlines alone operated 240 flights with 37,000 passengers on board to both domestic and international destinations on the first day of Eid.
Egypt Air, meanwhile, operated 20 flights from Jeddah in a single day and 49 flights in three days.
India, Bangladesh and Indonesia and other major countries, however, did not operate additional flights in spite of the huge number of expats traveling back home, according to officials.
Pakistan International Airlines operated three extra flights to Lahore to cope with increased demand, according to Shabaz Ahmed, PIA regional manager.
Several other Asian airlines also did not introduce additional flights, fitting in both Umrah pilgrims and holiday makers within their normal schedule. Limited seating and huge demand sent airfares soaring, with some tickets costing double their original price during off-peak seasons.
Still, extortionate prices have not deterred expats from traveling abroad during Eid. In fact, many of these expats are leaving for only 10 to 15 days but have still paid the extra cost to reunite with loved ones.
In addition to airports in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam and Madinah, new regional airports in Taif, Hail and Al-Ahsa also reported increased passenger traffic during the holidays, according to airline sources.
Air Arabia, Flynas, Fly Dubai and others have opened up routes from these cities in order for passengers not to have to travel via major cities such as Jeddah and Dammam to catch international flights.