Hajj: Hundreds Of Pilgrims Left Stranded In Saudi Over Sudan Crisis

According to a report by Daily Trust, hundreds of pilgrims who performed lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia are still stranded in the holy land.

They are stranded following the ongoing Sudan crisis which has taken its toll on commercial aviation.

It was learnt that the most affected are pilgrims who travelled through Badr Airline, a Sudanese Airline, which has recently shut down operations as a result of the war.

Recall that two of its aircraft were destroyed a week ago in Khartoum in the wake of the Sudan War.

However, most pilgrims who used other international airlines like Qatar Airways and Egypt Air, among others, have been returning to the country on schedule though most of the airlines bypass the Sudan airspace.

Daily Trust reports that this has caused a delay in returning pilgrims.

This impact was initially felt when President Muhammadu Buhari who was in Saudi for one week to perform lesser Hajj spent over seven hours from Saudi to Abuja on a journey of about four and half hours.

Daily Trust reports that Jeddah is about four and half hours from Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and five hours via the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.

As soon as the Saudi-bound aircraft from Lagos gets to Maiduguri, it crosses over to Chad, then Sudan to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia which has been the established flight path.

While other airlines bypassed the Sudan airspace for safety purposes, Badr Air has suspended operations leaving the passengers who travelled with it stranded in Saudi Arabia after completing the Umrah rites.

A stranded passenger who spoke with our correspondent yesterday said those who travelled via the Sudanese carrier were asked to look for alternative flights to return home.

The passenger said, “As I speak with you, I am in Saudi Arabia and the agent is saying we should find an option. The option we got was to pay N550,000 to FlyNas to come back home and after the war, Badr Air would now refund us N350,000.

“Many agents are now trying to find alternative arrangements. Already our hotel accommodation has expired and we are under pressure to leave. For like two days, the Hotel put off water and electricity but only restored it after we protested.”

It was also learnt that others who travelled through other airlines bypassing the airspace had to pay more to return home.

“But if you have a contractual agreement of a return ticket, the cost remains the same and the extra cost would be borne by the affected airline,” said an airline operator who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Former President of the Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON), Alhaji Abdulfatah Abdulmojeed, said the pilgrims affected were those who travelled with the Sudanese Airline via Kano.

Another member of AHUON also confirmed that many travel agents are in Saudi with their pilgrims looking for alternative arrangements to bring back their passengers.

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