The General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) in Saudi Arabia has approved the extension of landing permits for Nigerian Hajj carriers from July 4 to July 6.
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) made this known in a statement issued on Monday and signed by its Assistant Director, Public Affairs Division, Hajiya Fatima Sanda Usara.
She said the extension was necessitated by excessive flight cancellations and flight delays.
Usara explained that from June 10 to June 13, nine flights were cancelled because some States pilgrims boards were unable to secure Basic Travel Allowance (BTA) for pilgrims as well as insufficient funds for Visas and unavailable PCR test results.
She revealed that a total of 13 flights were cancelled with another 57 delayed take-offs, seven of which are in two digits, with the highest being 24 hours’ delay.
Usara however assured that no pilgrim with valid travel documents, would be left behind.
She appealed to intending pilgrims to remain calm and prepared for onward conveyance for the 2022 Hajj.
Usara said, the commission regrets any tension and stress intending pilgrims might have experienced during this outbound journey to the holy land.
She said that the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the commission, Zikrullah Hassan, commends Nigerian pilgrims’ resilience and prays that they all attain acceptable hajj whose reward is jannatul Firdaus.
The statement read: “The extension will commence from today the 4th of July, to 6th for one of the airlines whereas 4th and 5th have been approved for the another. NAHCON sought the extension to enable it to transport its remaining pilgrims into the Kingdom for 2022 Hajj.
“Of the 43,008 pilgrims expected to arrive Saudi Arabia from Nigeria, 27,359, inclusive of 527 staff as well as committees and board members,under the government quota has been conveyed.Similarly, over 5,000 out of the 8,097 Tour Operators’ pilgrims with valid visas were moved through scheduled flights and other arrangements.
“The extension was necessitated by excessive flight cancellations and flight delays. Data has shown that, from 10th to 13th of June, nine flights were cancelled due to reasons ranging from inability to secure BTA, insufficient funds for visas, unavailable PCR test results etc. In total, 13 flights were cancelled with another 57 delayed take-offs. Seven of which are in two digits, with the highest being 24 hours’ delay, followed by 23 hours delay, 22 hours and lowest in this category are twice 10-hour delays. Only 13 flights left on schedule out of the 65 outbound flights so far witnessed from the country.
“Notwithstanding the difficult situation, NAHCON once again reiterates that God willing, no pilgrim will be left behind as long as that individual has valid travel documents.To buttress this fact, frequency of outbound flights improved to seven take-off yesterday and at full capacity too. Thankfully, one of the carriers,FlyNas, with its four aircraft, will fly four times daily thereby moving 1,732 each day.
“Therefore, NAHCON appeals to pilgrims to be calm and to remain prepared for onward conveyance for the 2022 Hajj.
“The Commission regrets any tension and stress intending pilgrims might have experienced during this outbound journey to the holy land. Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan commends Nigerian pilgrims’ resilience and prays that they all attain Hajj mabrur whose reward is jannatul Firdaus. He gave assurance that NAHCON management will review the operations to make sure that such inconveniences are never repeated,” She said.
Also, Malam Umar Kaila, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of First Planet Travels, the sole agent of Flynas Airline of Saudi Arabia, said Flynas was ready and willing to ensure that no Nigerian pilgrims is left behind.
Kaila disclosed that NAHCON allocated about 11,000 pilgrims to flynas to transport them to Saudi Arabia and as at Sunday July 3, the airline was able to transported 10,415.
“If not for the flight delayed arising from the inability of states pilgrims to mobilise pilgrims on time by now we will have finished transporting all the pilgrims allocated to us. We came up with a schedule that will enable us to evacuate all the 11,000 pilgrims that were allocated to Flynas. We were ready to deploy four aircraft to finish operation by June 27″, he added.
NAHCON had on June 26, said its request for additional slots to enable more Nigerians to participate in this year’s Hajj exercise was turned down by the authorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Hajj body had requested for additional 5,000 slots to be distributed among State pilgrims’ welfare boards, subscribers through the Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS) as well as private tour operators.