Hajj 2023: Bangladesh pilgrims blame Biman air for costliest Hajj package ever
This year’s hajj package is the most expensive in Bangladesh’s history, thanks mainly to what travel agents and hajj agents say is Biman’s unusually high fare.
The fare of the national flag carrier has been fixed at Tk 1.98 lakh, a rise by about Tk 60,000 from last year, driving up the hajj package cost to nearly Tk 7 lakh.
The actual expense, however, will exceed Tk 8 lakh to Tk 8.5 lakh with sacrificial animal, food and other miscellaneous costs included.
In terms of the cost of hajj package, Bangladesh has surpassed neighbouring India and Pakistan.
The estimated price could be around one million Pakistani rupees, which is equivalent to around Tk 4 lakh, according to the report.
The hajj package that India announced in 2018, fixing 3.99 lakh rupees as the cost, remained unchanged till 2022, according to the website of Hajj Committee of India.
Indian Ministry of Minority Affairs in a notice this year said a subsidy of 1 lakh rupees would be given to each pilgrim. So, an Indian would be able to perform hajj paying not more than 3 lakh rupees, which amounts to around Tk 4 lakh.
In both India and Pakistan, the cost of airfare is between Tk 1 lakh and 1.2 lakh, sources in ATAB said.
The cost of performing hajj from Bangladesh this year under a private agency will be at least Tk 6.72 lakh, about Tk 1.5 lakh more than the minimum cost last year.
Besides, a pilgrim will have to pay an additional sum to the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia for a sacrificial animal, said the Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) last month.
The cost of pilgrimage under the government management reached Tk 6.83 lakh, according to an announcement of the religious affairs ministry.
Leaders of HAAB and Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) said one of the main reasons for the rise in the cost is the fare of Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
Biman has increased the fare by 30 percent to make extra profit. As a result, the cost of packages under both the government and the private hajj management have increased by about Tk 1.61 lakh, they added.
Aviation expert Kazi Wahidul Alam, also editor of The Bangladesh Monitor, said Biman increases airfare for hajj pilgrims every year to cover its losses and to show that the airliner is a profitable entity.
Biman Managing Director and CEO Shafiul Azim was not available for comment on this issue.
However, a top Biman official, wishing anonymity, said their flights have to return to Dhaka from Saudi Arabia mostly empty, and as such they demand extra fare. Besides, he also mentioned the high price of jet fuel.
According to the information provided by the ATAB, Biman has increased airfare by almost 70 percent in the last six years.
In 2017, the fare was Tk 1.18 lakh, in 2018 it was Tk 1.28 lakh, in 2019 Tk 1.28 lakh, in 2020 Tk 1.38 lakh and in 2022 it was 1.4 lakh.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was no hajj pilgrimage from Bangladesh in 2020 and 2021, but the airfare was announced by Biman for the first of those two years.
ATAB and HAAB leaders said in a bid to get rid of the monopoly business from the flag carriers of Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, the government should allow other airlines from India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia to carry hajj pilgrims.
This year, 1.27 lakh Bangladeshis will be able to perform Hajj. Of the total, Biman is supposed to carry fifty percent and two flag carriers of Saudi Arabia — Saudia and Flynas — are supposed to carry the rest.
“We want an end to Biman’s monopoly during hajj. That’s why the government should allow all airlines operating on the Middle East route to carry hajj pilgrims,” said HAAB President Shahdat Hossain Taslim.
Abdus Salam Aref, general secretary of ATAB, also said, “Biman wants to do its whole year’s business only during the hajj season and that’s why the airline is charging very high fare.”
Of the total 1.27 lakh, only around 35,000 pilgrims have completed registration as of yesterday. HAAB and ATAB leaders believe the high cost of hajj package is to blame for the low number.
Biman MD reacts, says No scope to reduce hajj flight fare this year
This year, the cost of performing hajj under government management fixed at Tk6,83,018 for each pilgrim
There is no scope to reduce the fare of hajj flights this year, said Managing Director of national carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines Shafiul Azim on Sunday.
Executive Committee fixed the fare. The reason behind the hike in hajj fare is increased tax, high dollar rate and jet fuel price. We don’t have hands in it,” he said.
The CEO of the national carrier said this while speaking at a press briefing held at the Balaka office in Kurmitola.
Replying to a question, he said: “The hajj fare which was fixed for this year is the lowest and we have reduced it as much as possible.”
This year, the government has fixed the cost of performing hajj at Tk6,83,018 for each pilgrim under the government management while Tk6,72,618 under the private management. It fixed Tk1,98,000 as Biman flight fare.
The High Court on March 14 questioned how common people will perform hajj at the cost of the package set by the government.
It questioned: “Why doesn’t the government allocate budgets for the hajj like other countries in the world?”
The High Court bench of Justice KM Kamrul Kader and Justice Mohammad Ali came up with this observation while hearing a writ petition over revising the hajj package offered by the government this year.
Ashraf-uz-Zaman sent a legal notice to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, requesting it to reduce the cost of hajj pilgrims and bring it under Tk4 lakh
Later, he filed a writ on March 12 as the concerned authority failed to respond to the legal notice.
Hajj-2023 will be held on 9th day of Zilhaj (June 28) depending on moon sighting.
As of March 15, a total of 9,569 people have registered for hajj under government management and another 91,246 people under private management.
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