Indian Haj pilgrims stranded for 80 hours as plane held up in Fujairah

Jeddah Indian Haj Mission’s flawless and excellent services for the pilgrims got tainted with the 11th hour mess caused by the country’s national carrier Air India that resulted in pilgrims being stranded for nearly 80 hours in Jeddah.

Indian Haj committee pilgrims bound for Goa and Guwahati on board the last two departure flights from the Haj terminal of Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz International Airport are stuck in the city for three days due to ‘non-availability of flight.’ According to reliable sources, the mess ensued following Air India’s act of subcontracting flight service to a Fujairah-based company, which does not possess adequate number of aircraft and crew. After a long wait of 80 hours, 235 pilgrims bound for Goa on Air India Flight AI 5086, which had been scheduled for Oct. 25, finally took off at around 9.30 p.m. on Tuesday. The plane for Guwahati, scheduled for Oct. 26, will leave on Wednesday evening after the return of the AI 5086, according to Firoz Khan, manager of Air India, Saudi Gazette reported.

Support TwoCircles

Khan said the delay was because ‘the flight was held up in Fujairah’. He declined to disclose the reason for the delay in the arrival of the flight. However, it was learned that the craft was not given clearance to leave Fujairah because of some problems pertaining to clearing financial dues of the crew. Khan admitted that pilgrims had to suffer due to the delay. Earlier, on Oct. 10, some 470 pilgrims bound for Kolkata were stranded at the airport for 49 hours because of flight delay.

Reacting to suffering caused to the pilgrims, Indian Consul General B.S. Mubarak told Saudi Gazette that the mission will take strict measures that such incidents are not repeated in future. “It was very unfortunate that pilgrims had to bear the inconvenience and suffer delays in the last six hours of their 41-day stay in the Kingdom. This incident is demotivating for the entire Haj mission at a time when all its members were keen in rendering the best ever services for the pilgrims, in which we have almost been successful,” he said.

Mubarak noted that he and Deputy Consul General and Haj Consul Md. Noor Rahman Sheikh were keen to address even simple problems faced by pilgrims through regular field visits, and frequent checking of SMS and Facebook. “Had we got any proper information about the delay in the flight’s arrival, we would not have sent pilgrims to the airport from their accommodation in Makkah,” he added. Several pilgrims complained that they had to undergo too much hardship and ordeal due to the ‘irresponsible attitude’ of the airline authorities. Many sick and elderly pilgrims who suffer from chronic diseases had to spend time either at the airport or at the accommodation in Jeddah for three days without having their proper medication. “Our departure was scheduled for Oct. 25 but we were sent to a hotel after spending several hours at the airport. Next day, we were taken to the airport by around 4.00 a.m., and had to wait there for nearly 12 hours, and then taken back to the hotel,” a pilgrim, who left on Tuesday for India, said.

Ubaidullah Askari of Bhatkal, a social worker associated with the Indian Pilgrims’ Welfare Forum, said that many pilgrims complained that there was no lift facility and water at the hotel where the Guwahati bound pilgrims were accommodated in Jeddah. “Many of the elderly pilgrims were seen almost exhausted through the ordeal caused by the unexpected delay in their departure,” he said.