Hajj flight starts amidst chaos

The Hajj flight has started on a sour note with 163 pilgrims facing lot of hardship on the first day of the flight as Biman’s Boeing 747 aircraft, leased from Nigerian airlines Cabo, did not get clearance from Saudi Arabia.

As its newly acquired Boeing did not get the requisite certificate, Biman finally pressed into service its own Boeing 777 aircraft on Saturday for the inaugural Hajj flight. But as this aircraft has less seating capacity, 163 pilgrims could not board it.

The first Hajj flights departed for Jeddah at 1.40 pm from Shahjalal International Airport. Biman’s Boeing 777 took off with 419 pilgrims.

This flight was supposed to operate with leased 747 aircraft, which has capacity to carry 582 passengers.

However, Biman officials are blaming Cabo for this chaos.

The Boeing 747 leased from Cabo arrived on Friday evening. But as the aircraft did not get Saudi Arabian certificate, Biman could not start Hajj flight with it, National flag career Biman official said.

Cabo was black listed by Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) for defrauding while renting an aircraft in 2009.

Minister for Civil Aviation Faruk Khan told journalists, “The aircraft did not get Saudi Arabian authority’s certificate. So we started the Hajj flight with our Boeing 777 aircraft.”

When asked as to why the aircraft has been leased from the blacklisted Cabo, he said “We had faced some small problems in the past. Hopefully, there will be no problem again.”

Kevin Steele, the state owned Biman’s MD told bdnews24.com “We did not get any response from any other airlines except Cabo, so we were compelled to take the aircraft from it.”

Regretting the unpleasant situation, he said, “We are going to keep on standby two of our aircrafts to avoid any chaos.”

On the other hand, many pilgrims did not get there emigration certificates even after queuing for it for hours in Ashkona Hajj camp.

Shahjahan Mia, State minister for Religious Affairs said, “People are facing problem for an aircraft. But it won’t happen in future.”

According to the Religious Affairs ministry, a total of 88911 pilgrims will take part in this year’s Hajj. Of them 1548 are going on government’s arrangement.

According to an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh, half of the pilgrims will be carried by Biman. And rest will fly by Saudi Arabian Airlines and Nas Air.

Biman’s communication department sources said, pilgrims will be carried on 209 flights. Of them 165 will be dedicated and 44 scheduled flights.

Biman’s pre-Hajj flight will operate till October 9.

Post Hajj flights will be operating from October 19 to November 18.

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