General Authority of Civil Aviation, GACA, Saudi Arabia, has set March 3, 2019 as deadline for airliners to submit request for slots allocation for 2019 Hajj operations.
This was part of resolutions reached at the recently concluded 2019 Hajj preparations meeting between the Authority and the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON representatives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Besides, both parties 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.
A statement by the Head of Media and Public Affairs, Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara, recalled that some challenges faced by Nigerian Hajj organizers during last year’s Hajj operations included airlift slots allocation and issue of small capacity of aircraft deployed to
convey pilgrims back and forth Saudi Arabia in some cases.
Usara stated that these “conditions regrettably led to some inconveniences and additional operational costs to carriers awaiting slots allocation, reason why NAHCON made a strong case to representatives of GACA on the situations when the two sides met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,
during the just concluded first pre-Hajj visit”.
NAHCON’s Commissioner of Operations, Alhaji Abdullahi
Modibbo Saleh, who represented the Commission, listed plans to forestall a repeat of 2018 challenges which included resolution to determine early allocation of air carriers to states with the corresponding number of pilgrims to each carrier based on an agreed criteria.
Saleh added that the Commission has taken over the sourcing of Basic Travelling Allowance, BTA of pilgrims to address the delay usually caused by it.
He, however, appealed to GACA not to introduce new regulations
belatedly when operations have commenced therefore making it difficult to ensure compliance.
The Commissioner explained that granting waiver on multiple bank guarantees would enhance the carriers’ financial ability in meeting their operational demands, pointing out that NAHCON, as a government agency, is already a guarantor for the approved carriers in certain ways.
Also, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA disclosed that all approved airlines for 2019 Hajj operations in Nigeria are to comply as required by rules and regulations of the authority, including application for inspection of aircraft 90 days in advance, and not to wait until beginning of operations before doing so.
Responding, leader of the GACA team, Mr Samir Shami, ruled out the possibility of introducing new regulations belatedly by the authority
Shami, however, stressed the need for carriers to beat deadline for request of airlift slots, which
has been slated for March 3, saying they expect strict compliance; in addition to furnishing GACA with Advance Passenger Information Certification for which certificates of compliance are available with the Saudi authorities.
He further revealed that two Saudi Arabian 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 2018, urging early allocation of passengers to all approved carriers.