Al-Ahram Weekly Online   3 - 9 December 2008
Issue No. 925
Sky High
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Holy wings to Mecca

For both Cairo International airport and the national carrier, this year's pilgrimage has been a successful achievement, reports Amirah Ibrahim

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Some 73,000 Egyptian pilgrims travelled to Saudi Arabia by air over the past 15 days to perform the Hajj. Most pilgrims travelled via Egypt's main gateway, Cairo International, while the rest went via Alexandria, Assiut, Luxor and Aswan airports. Ninety per cent of the Egyptian pilgrims traveled on board EgyptAir.

The national carrier has been in pilgrimage preparation mode for months. Deputy Head of the carrier's Hajj delegation Taha Awadallah told Al-Ahram Weekly that the carrier has sent a highly qualified team to Jeddah to map out the situation and that the team has been engaged in putting processes into place to ensure a comfortable pilgrimage season.

"EgyptAir has operated 325 regular and additional flights to Jeddah and Al-Madina. An estimated 330 return flights will run from 13 December to 1 January, " he explained. According to Awadallah, the carrier has transferred a total of 85,000 pilgrims; including 12,000 non-Egyptians, mainly coming from Africa and Europe.

In an attempt to lessen potential complications, EgyptAir has suspended bookings to Jeddah and Al-Madinah for passengers who obtained visitor visa. "Bookings were only permitted for pilgrims with Hajj entry visas." "To maintain order and discipline inside the pilgrims' village at Jeddah's King Abdel-Aziz Airport, in cooperation with Saudi authorities, passengers are not allowed into the village unless they have bookings for the same day."

Cairo International Airport has also reorganised itself to help avoid the problems of past years. "Hall 2 was used for pilgrims departing to Jeddah and Al-Madinah," said Cairo International Airport Chairman Fathi Fathallah. "Flights to and from Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada were moved to Private Planes Hall 4 for the duration of the pilgrimage season. A huge, modern tent has been constructed in front of the hall just like every year to receive pilgrims."

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