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Biman Bangladesh Airlines Ltd has got 14 additional landing slots alongside the existing ones from Saudi Arabia to carry the hajj pilgrims who could not fly due to visa complexities.

“The Saudi Arabia government has provided 14 additional landing slots to carry 4,687 hajj pilgrims who couldn’t fly due to the cancellation of 19 hajj flights till now,” Biman Managing Director AM Mosaddique Ahmed told a press conference at its head office in the city on Wednesday.

He, however, said it will not be possible to use more than 7-8 slots due to the shortage of aircraft and convenient schedules. “We’ll ask the Saudi government to arrange more convenient slots so that we can carry all the 4,687 pilgrims.”

Replying to a query about the root of the complexities, the Biman MD said the problem has arisen for lack of coordination among the Bangladeshi hajj agencies in renting houses for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

Although Biman has a capacity to carry around 419 passengers in every flight, the national flag carrier has been carrying around 310 hajj pilgrims on average, ferrying 9,887 less than the capacity till now.

Replying to another question, Mosaddique said they have allocated tickets to some 150 private hajj agencies out of total 625 receiving 50 percent advance money.

“Biman will take actions against those agencies which failed to send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia in the scheduled flights due to complexities,” he added.

Biman has so far operated some 70 flights to carry some 24,115 pilgrims which is 38 percent of the total number of pilgrims the national flag carrier is expected to carry, the Biman MD said, adding that they would have carried 54 percent of the pilgrims by now had not the complexities created.
Asked about the total monetary loss, Mosaddique said, “We aren’t carrying the pilgrims commercially. However, we’ve been deprived of Tk 40 crore as revenue.”

Some 127,198 pilgrims are scheduled to go to Saudi Arabia to perform hajj this year.

Of them, Bangladesh Biman will carry 50 percent while Saudi Airlines the rest ones.

Biman started the hajj flights on July 24 and will continue till August 26.

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