Upcoming pilgrim season plus peak summer demand to reflect on UAE-Saudi air travel
Dubai: The first of the flights carrying Hajj pilgrims from Dubai to Saudi Arabia will depart on June 22 and with a second flight scheduled two days later.
“We are collaborating with four carriers – two Dubai and two Saudi – to operate flights from DXB for Hajj this year,” said Mohammed Al Marzouqi, Head of Terminal Business Support and Head of Hajj Committee at Dubai Airports.
“From Dubai, we will have Emirates and flydubai operating flights, and Saudi carriers Flynas and Saudia.”
In all, 3,100 Emiratis along with a significant number of UAE residents will start on the Hajj journey from Dubai International Airport (DXB) this year. As in previous years, the UAE has been granted a quota of 6,228 pilgrims for Hajj, with half of that allotted for UAE Nationals departing from Dubai.
Pilgrim numbers to soar
Although Dubai Airports does not specifically track data for non-Emiratis travelling for Hajj, official figures indicate a noticeable increase in travellers from Dubai to Saudi Arabia in recent months. With the convergence of the Hajj season, summer travel peak demand, and school holidays, the coming weeks will get busier.
“We do not capture the exact number of transfer passengers because they are counted as normal passengers travelling to Saudi Arabia, not Hajj passengers,” said Al Marzouqi.
Airport authorities began preparations for Hajj travel a month-and-a-half ago. “The government of Saudi Arabia has lifted all Hajj travel restrictions that were put in place two years ago,” the DXB official said. “So, we are expecting heavy traffic, especially from transfer passenger.”
The recently launched e-visa services by the Saudi Foreign Ministry have also contributed to heightened interest. The service is being provided by the Saudi mission in seven countries – the UAE, Jordan, Egypt, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Sabry Mohammed, an Egyptian national resident of the UAE travelling for his first Hajj, told ‘Gulf News’, “I applied for the e-visa via Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Egypt three days ago. The visa came through pretty quickly.”
The initiative replaces the visa sticker on the beneficiary’s passport with an e-visa that can be read via a QR code.