Air­fares for Haj, Um­rah are sky­rock­et­ing

Ebrahim Hasham Kol­sawala, Chair­man, All In­dia Haj Um­rah Tour Or­gan­is­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, says that the air­lines charge ex­or­bi­tant fares dur­ing the peak pe­riod for Haj and Um­rah. He urges the gov­ern­ment to fo­cus on con­trol­ling the air­fares dur­ing this time so

TravTalk - India - - INTERVIEW - HAZEL JAIN

QHow big is the Haj and Um­rah mar­ket in In­dia?

Haj and Um­rah travel in In­dia is a huge mar­ket. Nearly 1,35,000 pil­grims have trav­elled for Haj in the last three years. The yearly Haj quota for In­dia al­lot­ted by the Gov­ern­ment of Saudi Ara­bia is 1,70,000 of which 1,25,000 travel through the Haj Com­mit­tee of In­dia and the rest through pri­vate tour op­er­a­tors.

Um­rah traf­fic runs through the year. Last year, more than 1,70,000 pil­grims trav­elled from In­dia dur­ing the eight months of Um­rah. In In­dia, the peak sea­son for Um­rah is dur­ing the Mus­lim months of Rabiul Awwal (De­cem­ber) and Ramzan (May/June). Also, the school va­ca­tion pe­riod of April/May and De­cem­ber are peak pe­riod for Um­rah groups.

QAre there any chal­lenges this sec­tor faces?

The air­lines charge ex­or­bi­tant fares dur­ing peak pe­ri­ods. The pri­vate tour op­er­a­tors re­serve seats as per their quota and their city of de­par­ture through the air­lines, mostly on sched­uled flights but also on char­tered and spe­cial flights. High fares are fixed be­cause such a large num­ber of pil­grims are con­firmed to travel in a stip­u­lated time and pe­riod. Nearly 3,50,000 con­firmed air trav­ellers in a year is lu­cra­tive busi­ness for air­lines and IATA agents.

QWhich air­lines of­fer ser­vices for Haj and Um­rah?

Saudi Air­line and Air In­dia are the two big­gest car­ri­ers for Haj pil­grims. Other air­lines like Jet Air­ways, Emi­rates, Gulf, Eti­had and Air Ara­bia also fol­low these na­tional car­ri­ers. But the big­gest prof­i­teers are Air In­dia and Saudi Ara­bia in the busi­ness of Haj.

QHow do you think this mat­ter can be re­solved?

The gov­ern­ment’s fo­cus should be to con­trol air­fares dur­ing the peak sea­son. The pil­grims are the tar­get. The agencies/air­line takes un­due ad­van­tage of the de­mands of peak sea­son and pil­grims are com­pelled to pay high fares. The nor­mal Um­rah fares used to be be­tween ` 20,000 and ` 28,000 but it now ranges be­tween ` 30,000 to ` 40,000. For Haj, it used to be ` 50,000 which now touches ` 65,000 to ` 72,000 on sched­uled flights. A point to note is that no group can re­serve seats in ad­vance. They can only block them on the con­di­tion that they will ac­cept the fares that are de­clared at that time.

QWhat is the rea­son be­hind such high air­fares?

The air­lines cite neg­li­gi­ble oc­cu­pancy one way for char­tered flights and ex­tra flights dur­ing Haj. For this they can charge more but not ex­or­bi­tant fares. The air­lines take un­due ad­van­tage of this and charge the same fares for sched­uled flights which is to­tally un­jus­ti­fied. The gov­ern­ment of In­dia has to take steps for con­trol­ling the fares on sched­uled flights for Haj and Um­rah dur­ing the peak pe­riod. It should also con­trol un­reg­is­tered tour op­er­a­tors who are cheat­ing pil­grims. Their ad­ver­tis­ing should be re­stricted. Only reg­is­tered re­cruit­ing agents should be al­lowed on the strength of their li­cense num­ber.

Nearly 3,50,000 trav­ellers in a year is lu­cra­tive busi­ness for air­lines and IATA agents

Ebrahim Hasham Kol­sawala Chair­man, All In­dia Haj Um­rah Tour Or­gan­is­ers As­so­ci­a­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.