Hajis’ airport ordeal ends


Some Hajis from the Indian state of Assam, who had been stranded at Jeddah’s airport for the last four days because of a technical snag in their flight, finally flew out Wednesday night.

Their flight was originally scheduled to depart from Jeddah on Sunday.

Earlier, the distraught pilgrims spoke to Arab News narrating their ordeal.

“We just need to know when we can fly so we can inform our families to receive us at the airport back home,” said Abdul Aleem Choudary, a pilgrim from Assam.

“We performed Haj without any hassle but this delayed departure due to technical issues is really frustrating,” said another pilgrim. He added that pilgrims’ luggage had already been sent to the cargo hold and they had no change of clothes.

The snag-hit flight, scheduled to arrive in Jeddah on Saturday, was grounded in Fujairah resulting in the delay, official sources told Arab News. The aircraft is part of the Air Asia fleet, an outsourcing agency of Air India for Haj flights.

“This is our third journey to the airport to board the flight to Goa,” said Mohammed Sabir before boarding the bus to the airport in Jeddah on Tuesday. He was due to travel last Saturday.

“Our flight was scheduled to depart on Sunday but within five minutes of our arrival from Makkah, officials told us to board another bus as the flight had been canceled,” a pilgrim told Arab News.

The same flight had earlier experienced some technical problems upon landing in Goa in India. A failure of the power system had resulted in total darkness in the aircraft and the door of the plane had also jammed.

Eventually, aircraft engineers managed to pry open the door and the pilgrims disembarked assisted by the illumination from their cell phones and torches that they were carrying with them, according to the relatives of the pilgrims.

Meanwhile, Feroz Khan, station manager of Air India in Jeddah, said that the flight — part of Air Asia — is being restored and the backlog of passengers stranded in Jeddah is being cleared.

Indian consul general, B.S. Mubarak said: “The Indian Consulate shifted the pilgrims to a hotel immediately following the flight cancelation and our officials are in touch with all concerned.” A number of officials from the Indian consulate visited the pilgrims at the hotel.

Volunteers from the Bhatkal Jamat also visited the stranded pilgrims to assist them.

Sources said that the number of flight cancellations had exceeded that of last year.

A total of 470 pilgrims departed from Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport on Tuesday night and Wednesday. A special charter flight carried 235 pilgrims home on Tuesday while some 132 pilgrims boarded the flight for Goa on Wednesday.



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