The cost of Hajj package, including airfare, in Bangladesh is determined by the government
The cost of the Hajj package in Bangladesh has skyrocketed in recent years, and rising airfares are a major driver of the increase.
Most airlines worldwide raise their fares to transport pilgrims to Mecca, Medina, or Jeddah during the Hajj season, but rarely to the level seen in the country.
Industry insiders said the blame is shared between Biman and private sector stakeholders, all of whom are looking to cash in on the Hajj pilgrims. Effective action to reduce prices has not been taken yet as both sides benefit.
At the end of the day, it is the pilgrims who have to bear the cost.
M Shahadat Hossain, president of Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB), told this reporter: “Since Biman is a commercial enterprise, we proposed to the government to form a joint technical committee to determine reasonable airfares.”
On condition of anonymity, a stakeholder in the industry said: “Without the goodwill of the government, the airfare cannot be reduced to a reasonable level during the Hajj season.”
What happens in other countries?
According to an industry insider, the airfare is not hiked during the Hajj season in neighboring India, which sends more pilgrims to Saudi Arabia than Bangladesh. Airlines in Indonesia and Pakistan also charge regular plane fares.
The cost of Hajj package, including airfare, in Bangladesh is determined by the government. The government has finalized Tk6,83,018 (about $6,400) for the hajj package this year under government management, which is around Tk96,000-Tk1,00,000 more than 2022.
Airfares have been raised from Tk1,40,000 last year to Tk1,98,000.
India, Indonesia, and Malaysia determine the cost of Hajj packages through open tenders.
According to data from last year, Bangladeshis paid a minimum of $5,000 for the Hajj package in 2022. The cost of the Hajj package was $3,620 in Pakistan and $2,760 in Indonesia. In India, a Hajj pilgrim paid between Rs3-3.5 lakh ($3,600-4,200) depending on the state.
This year, India has reduced the cost of the Hajj package by Rs50,000, according to the Indian Express.
Reasons behind fare hike
Recently, the dollar exchange rate against the taka increased by about 22% and jet fuel prices by about 18% to 20%.
Considering the situation, the airfare was initially fixed at Tk2.10 lakh, but later it was lowered to Tk1.98 lakh.
In 2022, Biman proposed an airfare of around Tk1.65 lakh. Later it was fixed at around Tk1.40 lakh.
ATAB demands revision
The Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) has demanded necessary steps to reduce the cost of airline tickets and the Hajj package to reduce the financial burden on Hajj pilgrims.
ATAB Secretary General Abdus Salam Aref said: “Air fares have increased by around 30% in the last six years. When everyone is facing the dollar crisis globally, such high airfares and the rise in the riyal exchange rate against the taka will put Hajj pilgrims in a financial crisis. Many of them will lose the ability to perform Hajj in the future.”
ATAB has written to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, explaining the scenario and urging effective steps.
Source: dhakar tribune
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