Biman Bangladesh Airlines yesterday got permission to operate 12 additional hajj flights paving the way for trips of all intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, a top official of religious affairs ministry said.
Religious Affairs Secretary Abdul Jalil last night said that the Civil Aviation Authority of Saudi Arabia has also extended the deadline for sending hajj passengers till August 28.
The Saudi authorities earlier had fixed August 26 as the deadline.
Sending all pilgrims to Saudi Arabia became very much uncertain due to frequent cancellations of hajj flights of Biman due to shortage of pilgrims.
The national flag carrier was forced to cancel 24 hajj flights through which around 11,000 pilgrims could have been sent to Saudi Arabia.
Hajj of those pilgrims became uncertain as the Saudi authorities were “dilly-dallying” over giving permission to operate additional flights and extending deadline for carrying pilgrims, sources at the Hajj Camp in capital’s Ashkona said.
“It’s good news for us that the Saudi authorities finally gave Biman the permission to operate 12 additional hajj flights. They are allowing Biman to operate the additional flights till August 28,” Abdul Jalil said.
“Now we don’t have any uncertainty over sending the rest of the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.”
Earlier, Biman had permission for 14 additional hajj flights.
As of 8:00am yesterday, Biman and Saudi Arabian Airlines — the two designated airlines to carry pilgrims — have sent a total of 90,409 aspirant hajis to Saudi Arabia, Shakil Meraj, general manager (public relation) at Biman, said through an e-mail.
In 24 hours from 8:00 am yesterday, Biman is scheduled to run nine hajj flights, including two from Chittagong, carrying over 3,200 pilgrims, he added.
Meanwhile, visa applications of the remaining 300 pilgrims were sent yesterday, the deadline for completing visa process of hajis, Saiful Islam, director of the Hajj Camp, said last night.
“With the sending of visa applications of 300 pilgrims, we have completed visa process of all the intending hajis,” he also said.
Saiful added names of 600 to 700 people were cancelled on various grounds, including death and illness, which is a common phenomenon every year.
The Saudi government set a quota of 1,27,198 people for Bangladesh for sending people to perform the annual ritual of Muslims this year.
There was an uncertainty over getting visas for all the pilgrims for the last several days due to delay and irresponsibility on the part of a section of hajj agencies.