Due to the closure of Sudan Air Space, the local airliners selected to airlift Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia have requested for an upward review of flight ticket by NAHCON and States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards, the Hajj Reporters learnt.
On Tuesday, Max Air, Azman Airline, Air Peace and Arik Air signed the 2023 hajj airlift agreement with NAHCON after initially declining and requesting for further consultations as a result of increment in flight time caused by the crisis in Sudan.
Hajj Reporters learnt that the airliners made a request of additional 500 to 650 US dollars to cover for the 4-hour difference in flight time.
NAHCON was said to have constituted committee comprised of experts in aviation matters to compute the differences of flying 4:30 minutes using Sudan air space and 7:30 minutes using an alternative airspace.
The committee is said to have proposed an additional 700 to 900 US dollars per pilgrims depending on the type of Aircraft to be used by the airliners.
NAHCON was said to have quickly jettison the reports and called for a meeting with the approved air carriers and urged them to submit their own projection on the increment.
After series of negotiations and pleas, the airliners were said to have collectively agreed that each pilgrim would pay an additional 400 to 500 US dollars to cover for the cost of additional 4 hours flight time per transit.
One of Airline manager who spoke with Hajj Reporters said the huge amount involved in flying pilgrims from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia through another air space that will take 7 hours and return empty through the same route to carry another set of pilgrims will be too much to bear by any airline.
“Yes, we made a demand to NAHCON and States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board to increase air ticket from the current price of 1,783 to 2,283 US dollar per pilgrim- a proposal for additional 500 US dollars per pilgrims.
“Now, we are going to use Eritrea, Cameroon, Ethiopia route which is 12 hours 40 minutes to and fro and you know that the longer the flight time, the costlier the air ticket.
“Let me give you example, Lagos to Yobe is about 2 hours plus and the local airlines charges about N196,000 for flying from Lagos to Yobe. Now, to fly from Lagos to Yobe and from Yobe to Lagos is 4 hours flight time and will approximately cost N393,000 per return ticket. If they are to carry out 50 trips for example, that means such airlines will need the sum of N19.7 million to cover aviation fuel and other charges.
“We are actually not happy but that is the reality of the current situation.
Our efforts to get reaction from NAHCON proves abortive as our text message was not replied.
However, an inside source who confided in Hajj Reporters, said it is true but NAHCON is facing the dilemma of asking pilgrims to pay additional hajj fare especially with less than ten days to the commencement of airlift of pilgrims.
“What I can tell you is that NAHCON has pleaded with the airlines to accept 250 to 300 US dollar increment as anything more than that can halt Nigeria pilgrims from performing hajj this year. I learned airliners have agreed but I am yet to confirmed it.
On the ways out, our sources said: “NAHCON and States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards are weighing the option of reducing pilgrims BTA from 800 to 550 or 600 US dollar to bridge the differences. Asking pilgrims to make additional payment is difficult and Federal Government may not likely shoulder the difference, so what options do they have than to “use what is available to solve the unforeseen challenges?
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