As part of preparations for the 2023 Hajj, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) met with stakeholders in the Aviation Industry as well as air carriers on Thursday, 4th May, 2023 in the Hajj House conference Hall, Abuja. This was done to shore up arrangements that remain instrumental to seamless Hajj airlift.
In the meeting preparatory to Hajj airlift signing agreement with selected carriers, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan disclosed steps already taken by the Commission to curtail drawbacks in the airlift once it commences. The NAHCON Chairman gave the good news that President Muhammadu Buhari had graciously agreed to a 65% waiver on aviation charges to the air carriers.
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He also informed that to ensure ceaseless supply of Jet A fuel for the purpose of the airlift, NAHCON has made arrangements with Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to that end. The carriers were advised to meet NNPC for briefing and perfection of the arrangement. According to the Chairman, the Commission has also been in consultation with aviation experts for professional advice and the Commission will remain in consonance with the industry’s advise in the interest and safety of Nigerian pilgrims.
The Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu who was present at the meeting stated that his organisation has inspected all designated Hajj airlift airports for security and functional facilities. He called on the selected carriers to adhere strictly to the terms and conditions of engagement that they would sign. They were also advised to meet up with the requirements that would be spelt out in the agreements as NCAA was ready to sanction non compliance. He lamented the issue of delay and cancellation of airlift as experienced last year, describing it as having replica effect on the whole operation and even affecting Saudi Arabian operations too. Over this perpetual bottleneck, NCAA was earlier invited by General Authority on Civil Aviation (GACA) to measure the level of effect it has on Madina and Jeddah airports’ Hajj operations. Hence, NCAA has laid down stringent measures to avoid cancellations and flight delays this year.
Capt Nuhu as well as other speakers at the meeting expressed concern over closure of the Sudanese airspace due to the war in the country. It was revealed that pilgrims might have to travel for seven and half hours per trip due to the possible change of route.
In another development four out of the five carriers selected for the Hajj operations requested additional time before signing the agreement. All four are local airlines. According to the airline operators, there was a need for them to carry out further consultations and calculations before returning to the drawing board to give consent on the contract, by Tuesday, 9th of May. FlyNas, the Saudi based airline had however signed and indicated its readiness to start the 2023 Hajj airlift. Hence, further processes for the airlift arrangement has continued with FlyNas.
2023 Hajj advance team comprising selected NAHCON staff and few medical personnel are expected to depart the country by 21st May, 2023.