Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has set March 3, 2019 as deadline for airline operators to submit request for slots allocation for 2019 Hajj operations.
GACA disclosed this at the 2019 Hajj preparations meeting with the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, according to a statement by the commission’s head of Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda Usara.
Both NAHCON and GACA agreed that delays and some flight cancellations experienced during 2018 Hajj were not due to shortcomings of the carriers but as a result of the dynamics of Hajj services and other environmental factors.
It would be recalled that during 2018 Hajj operations, some challenges faced by Nigerian Hajj organizers included airlift slots allocation and issue of small capacity of aircraft deployed to convey pilgrims back and forth Saudi Arabia in some cases.
The conditions regrettably led to some inconveniences and additional operational costs to carriers awaiting slots allocation.
Mr Samir Shami, leader of the GACA team, urged airline operators to beat the deadline, saying that the authority expects strict compliance, in addition to furnishing it with Advance Passenger Information Certification for which certificates of compliance are available with the Saudi authorities.
Shami further said two Saudi airlines would be designated to airlift the Kingdom’s passenger quota for 2019 Hajj based on the sharing formula agreed between the two countries in July of 2018.
He, therefore, urged that allocation of passengers to all approved carriers should be done early enough.
Speaking on behalf of the commission, the Commissioner of Operations, Alhaji Abdullahi Modibbo Saleh, spelt out NAHCON’s plans to forestall a repeat of 2018 challenges.
He said the commission had resolved to determine early allocation of air carriers to states with the corresponding number of pilgrims to each carrier based on agreed criteria.
He also said NAHCON has taken over the sourcing of Basic Travelling Allowance of pilgrims to address the delay usually caused by it.
Alhaji Modibbo Saleh, D.G NCAA and representative of Airline Operators of Nigeria collectively re-emphasized an earlier request for GACA to waive multiple bank guarantees imposed on carriers.
The Commissioner explained that granting this waiver would enhance the carriers’ financial ability in meeting their operational demands.
Besides, NAHCON, as a government agency, is already a guarantor for the approved carriers in certain ways.