Departure plan for Umrah pilgrims reactivated as Pak airspace reopens

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH – The Ministry of Haj and Umrah on Friday resumed the grouping of Pakistani Umrah pilgrims for departure through King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah to board flights to Islamabad and Karachi following the reopening of the Pakistani airspace, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

However, passengers flying to Lahore were exempted from Friday’s grouping due to the continued closure of the city’s airport.

Pakistan earlier said it was set to re-open its airspace with restrictions, after thousands of passengers were left stranded worldwide when Islamabad shut down air travel as tensions with neighboring India soared following a terrorist attack in Indian-held Kashmir.

The decision to close airspace on Wednesday came after a rare aerial dogfight between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan in the skies over the disputed territory of Kashmir ignited fears of an all-out conflict.

In a subsequent statement, the Haj Ministry said field teams were following up with airlines to confirm flight bookings for the Pakistani Umrah pilgrims.

The ministry has also issued a circular to Umrah service companies to coordinate with the offices of Saudi Arabian Airlines and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) before completing departure procedures for the pilgrims.

A representative of Umrah companies and establishments posted at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah should immediately visit the Haj and Umrah Administration at the airport to coordinate arrangements for the departure of pilgrims, the circular said.

The ministry’s Undersecretary for Umrah Affairs Dr. Abdulaziz Wazzan, accompanied by the Director General for Umrah Pilgrims’ Services Dr. Khalid Labani, on Friday made an inspection tour of the airport in line with the directives of Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr. Muhammad Saleh Benten.

The aim of the inspection tour was to make sure that the services provided to the Pakistani pilgrims were up to the required standards and the grouping procedures were going on smoothly.

The officials urged the airport staff to exert all efforts to ensure the comfort of the guests of Allah and provide the best services to them.

The authorities had made arrangements for the accommodation of Pakistani Umrah pilgrims in hotels in Makkah and Madinah after the suspension of flights operating to the country.

The Ministry of Haj, in coordination with the Makkah and Madinah emirates and the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), hosted the Pakistani pilgrims, who were scheduled to depart on Friday.

The Umrah companies and establishments instructed to provide accommodation to the Pakistani pilgrims until their departure.