FASTER CLEARING FOR PILGRIMS
Earlier flights lead to smooth processing at airports
TABUNG Haji’s (TH) scheduling of earlier flights for Malaysian haj pilgrims to the Holy Land this year has led to faster processing upon arrival at the King Abdulaziz International Airport.
Jeddah and Medina are the two entry points into Saudi Arabia for Malaysian haj pilgrims.
TH’s Jeddah operations director Mohamad Zamry Mohd Noor said of the 64 haj flights scheduled to land in Jeddah, 14 had arrived with more than 5,000 pilgrims.
“In the past, most Malaysian haj flights landed in Medina. But, now, TH has planned earlier flights to Jeddah, which makes it more comfortable at the airport.
“There aren’t many pilgrims arriving from other countries, so it is very smooth at the arrival hall, Immigration, baggage collection, and customs,” he told Malaysian media here.
Zamry said previously, when pilgrims arrived closer to the wukuf date, processing at the airport could take between 5 and 6 hours. With the earlier arrivals, it takes only 2 to 3 hours.
Another improvement this year is the enhancement of the ehaj system implemented by the Saudi Arabian government.
“Before, there were counters from where we had to collect stickers, which had to be pasted in passports, and another counter to collect bus tickets for transportation from the airport to Medina or Mecca.
“With the e-haj system, these manual processes are no longer necessary. There’s less paperwork and the process is shorter,” he added.
Haj pilgrims are also provided with Saudi Immigration arrival cards when departing from Malaysia, which further speeds up processing upon arrival in Jeddah.
“It is also good that our haj pilgrims understand the process they will go through, and have proven to be disciplined, queuing up in an orderly manner and not rushing or pushing,” Zamry said.
He attributed this to the courses and briefings organised by TH in Malaysia to prepare the pilgrims on what to expect.
“No single haj pilgrim from Malaysia has been stopped for bringing in prohibited items. Overall, our pilgrims have followed instructions and regulations well. Even those who brought in food items have packed them well.”
After clearing Immigration and customs, Malaysian pilgrims are led to a waiting area where they can pray, use the washroom, are given refreshments and meals, before boarding busses to Medina or Mecca.
The remaining 50 flights to Jeddah are arriving from now to Aug 26, averaging 2 to 4 flights a day.
Mohamad Zamry Mohd Noor