POST TIME: 24 January, 2020 00:00 00 AM
Airfare for pilgrims should be reasonable

Airfare for pilgrims should be reasonable

Every year, millions of people go to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj and of this, a large number are from lower middle class backgrounds who spend a lion’s share from their life’s savings to pay for the airfare to and from Saudi Arabia. In such a situation, the hike of the Biman Bangladesh airfare will come as a blow for many would be pilgrims.

Biman authorities claim that they have already informed the civil aviation and tourism ministry, including other related stakeholders, about hiking the fare for Hajj pilgrims. A total of 137,198 pilgrims will go to Saudi Arabia from Bangladesh this year for performing Hajj. Among them, 1.2 lakh people will perform Hajj under private management and 17,198 others under government management. Biman Bangladesh has fixed Tk. 1.40 lakh as airfare for each Hajj pilgrim this year, which was Tk. 1.28 lakh last year.

This sudden rise may force many to seek monetary support from others while those on a tight budget may decide to forego the trip altogether. From a different angle, since Hajj flights are taking pilgrims on a religious plus spiritual journey, the matter of profit should never be the main concern. Reportedly, other middle-eastern flights have not raised the fare so the move by Biman may perplex many. The national carrier is already in a precarious position, trying to emerge from years of mismanagement plus a variety of skullduggery.

The last thing Biman needs is alienation from Bangladeshis, especially Hajj pilgrims who always prefer the national carrier for going on pilgrimage since they can easily express their desires to the airline staff. If Biman wishes to reinforce its image among local users then it must declare a special air package for Hajj time travelers. In addition to keeping the fare within limit, it can also offer some special facilities in Saudi Arabia. The government may intervene and give specific instructions that for Hajj flights there should be one standard rate for at least five years, irrespective of the price of fuel.