LONDON – Hajj is one of the most important pilgrimages for the Muslim community and is seen as one of the largest religious gatherings, with Saudi Arabia seeing 3 to 5 million pilgrimages a year. Saudia, the national carrier is gearing up for another Hajj in July, so how are they managing this mass influx of passengers?
The national flag carrier Saudia (SVA), formally known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, is always well-equipped to provide pilgrims with top-notch Saudi hospitality.
Usually, the pilgrimage will disembark at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport or Makkah, Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.
Jeddah is Saudi Arabia’s largest city and is the economic hub of the Kingdom. Whilst Makkah is a religious city with proximity to the pilgrimage site, which includes the Kabah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
For this year’s Hajj season, Saudia has a dedicated fleet of 14 aircraft for Hajj goers. This includes the Airbus A320 family, A330s, and older variant 777-200ER. Previously, the airline operated Boeing 747-400s on highly congested routes, such as India, Indonesia and Pakistan.
The airline is expected to operate 268 international flights from and to 15 airports worldwide, along with 32 domestic flights to and from six airports. 107,000 international and 12,800 domestic seats are to be provided by the airline during the season.
Significantly, the airline has a special dedicated business unit for the Hajj season. They are largely responsible for evaluating, marketing, and selecting the largest potential market where demand for Hajj travel is greatest, as well as liaising with countries’ governments. This shows how great the Hajj season is for the airline.
Although for the past 2 years, the Hajj season has been muted due to the pandemic. Last year, pilgrimages were limited to 60,000 seats. This year, the country is ready to welcome a million pilgrimages.
Prior to the pandemic, Saudia dedicated 17 aircraft for its Hajj fleet. Despite the upsurge in pilgrimage numbers, Mohsin Tutla, chairman of the World Hajj and Umrah Care Foundation, said he was confident that everybody in the country is ready for the upsurge in traffic.
“So much to do in such little time, but I am certain every stakeholder belonging to the professional Hajj community shall rise to the challenge and help the 1 million pilgrims fulfil their dreams,” he said. This also extends to Saudia.
Saudia is usually the pilgrims’ most preferred airline. With it being a world-class premium airline, and the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, this makes it an ‘expert in Hajj service’.
There are many on-board services such as movies, documentaries, audio content, and 210 minutes of prayers and guidance in English and Arabic.
With a large influx of passengers entering through the port of entry, the airline has come up with a plan to streamline its ground operations. Staff will be on standby speaking the languages of the pilgrims, and additional hiring of staff, and luggage will be shipped to their respective residences in Saudi Arabia.