Most airline companies around the world usually raise fares during the Hajj season for travel to Mecca, Medina, or Jeddah, but rarely is the fare more than doubled.
Bangladeshi Hajj pilgrims face exorbitant expenses.
Last year, 1,27,178 Bangladeshi pilgrims traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj. The government will announce this year’s hajj package next week. Plane fare will be one of the major components in the list of anticipated expenses.
The regular cost of Dhaka-Jeddah-Dhaka flight is around Tk50,000-60,000, according to Biman Bangladesh Airlines. But a pilgrim has to pay approximately double the original plane fare. Last year, the government fixed Tk1,24,723 for the dedicated hajj flight with Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudia Airlines.
Along with plane fare, a hajj pilgrim has to pay for accommodation, local transport, and food in Saudi Arabia.
Why do Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudia Airlines charge double?
Biman officials told the Dhaka Tribune the hajj flights’ operating cost is higher than those of regular flights. The flights are operated in a dedicated way since other passengers are not allowed, according to the rules.
However, the plane fare is not hiked during hajj season in neighboring India, which sends more pilgrims to Saudi Arabia than Bangladesh. Airlines in Indonesia and Pakistan also charge the regular plane fare.
Can Bangladeshi pilgrims get extra facilities against the double fare?
“Biman Bangladesh Airlines is a little different compared to other nations because only Biman and Saudia Airlines (operates hajj flights under Biman) can operate point to point direct and dedicated hajj flights. That means the flights do not have any transits. But the Indian or Indonesian pilgrims do not get such facilities,” said Shakil Meraj, General Manager (Public Relations), Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
“When a plane takes transit it adds additional four to six hours to the trip. This causes suffering to the pilgrims. Besides, most Bangladeshi pilgrims are older than the pilgrims of other countries,” he added.
Due to the high cost of plane fare, the total hajj package exceeds Tk3 lakh for a pilgrim traveling from Bangladesh. However, a pilgrim from Kolkata can perform the hajj at a cost of Rs83,000 (Tk1,09,000), while it takes only Rs58,000 (Tk76,000) for a Mumbai resident.
This article was originally published in the Dhaka Tribune.