Hajj 2023: Saudi Arabia has restored the pilgrims’ quota for Hajj 2023 to pre-Pandemic level. But, the increased Haj package cost has dampened the sprit and enthusiasm of those planning to travel to Makkah for the annual pilgrimage.
The number of pilgrims in the last three years was reduced owing to Covid-19 pandemic. As many as 1 million pilgrims performed Hajj last year. As against this, 60,000 performed Hajj in 2021 and just 1,000 in 2020.
For Hajj 2023, however, Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah confirmed the Kingdom’s decision to bring the Hajj pilgrims quota to the pre-covid number. It means that if all goes well, more than 2.5 million Muslims from all over the world will throng the two holy cities, Makkah and Madinah, during the annual pilgrimage in June 2023.
Restoring the pilgrims’ quota was a good news for those who had planned travel to Makkah but was not able to make it due to travel restrictions. However, they are still reluctant due to the huge increase in the Haj Package price.
The other reason for the pilgrims to delay their travel plan is because they are yet to know the exact amount of charges they will be required to pay and the actual details of Haj 2023 Package cost.
The Saudi Haj Ministry started online registration for the domestic pilgrims in January 2023 and for the pilgrims from the United States, UK, Australia, South Africa, France, Germany and other countries in February launching separate special Haj portals.
The Haj Committee of India too started receiving Haj Application Forms for Hajj 2023 in February, 2023. Concerned offices and bodies in Brunei, Nigeria, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries too have started receiving Hajj applications.
However, none of them have do far revealed the actual package cost of the Hajj 2023 scheduled to be performed in June this year.
“The Saudi administration has imposed insurance and other health related charges after Covid-19. Pilgrims meanwhile are also being asked to undergo various tests and medical check-ups. These all have not only increased Hajj package cost but have also put unnecessary burden on the pilgrims”, Shakeel Ahmed, a tour operator, said while talking to ummid.com.
“Moreover, the airfare of all flights going to Saudi Arabia that was already on higher side, has been doubled after Covid-19, and is expected to go further up during the Hajj and Ramadan Umrah season. This is nothing but blackmailing tactics to extort money from the pilgrims”, he added.
As per a rough estimate, airfares from Mumbai to Dubai is around 11,000 to 12,000; from Mumbai to Kuwait is 13,000 to 14,000; from Mumbai to Muscat is 12,000 to 13,000 and even from Mumbai to Jordan is from 18,000 to 20,000.
“However Mumbai to Jeddah airfare starts from a minimum of Rs. 25,000. It is even higher if one decides to travel by Saudi Airlines”, Ansari Shakeb, who recently performed Umrah, told ummid.com.
“The airfare mentioned here is of normal days. During Ramadan when more people go to Umrah the minimum airfare to Jeddah from Mumbai will more than Rs. 30,000. During Haj season the airfare is again hiked”, he said.
Interestingly, the airlines charge so heavily but their services are becoming poorer and poorer day by day.
“Gone are the days when welcome drinks and good meal were served during the Haj and Umrah flights. Everything is charged. Lot of restrictions on baggage and even more difficult is to bring Zamzam water”, Shakeb’s wife who accompanied her husband for Umrah in the last month, said.
“Moreover, the behaviour of the airline staffers and attendants is rude, as if they are doing any favour to the pilgrims and are carrying them free of cost”, she added.
“The time is rife for the organisations working for the welfare of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims to fight with the concerned governments and authorities to put cap on airfare and improve inflight service”, she said.
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