More than 250 Haj pilgrims from Qatar got stranded at the Jeddah International Airport on Friday as their flight was reportedly delayed for about 14 hours.
Some affected pilgrims, who blamed the tour operators (Muqawil) for the ordeal that they had gone through, urged the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs to launch an investigation into the incident.
Some pilgrims also complained of discriminatory treatment by the Muqawil throughout the pilgrimage.
The pilgrims were reportedly told by the Muqawil to report at the Jeddah International Airport at Friday noon for departure at 2pm. “We performed the farewell Tawaf (the concluding ritual of the pilgrimage) on Friday morning, packed our baggage and left Makkah for Jeddah. We reported at the airport two hours before the departure time. However, we were told that the departure has been rescheduled for 5pm,” Al Sharq quoted one of the pilgrims as saying.
As the waiting went on, some of the pilgrims tried to contact officials of the company that was responsible for organising the trip, but their mobiles were switched off, said the pilgrim.
“We then tried to contact our embassy to see if any assistance could be provided to the women and the elderly in the group but none was available,” he said.
He added that the long waiting and continuous exposure to cold air had caused physical problems to many pilgrims.
The pilgrims were put to wait for about 14 hours before they finally boarded the aircraft, the paper said. Some of the pilgrims had to be given medical treatment at the airport, which caused a delay of about an hour, even after the flight was ready for departure.
“We were discriminated throughout the pilgrimage. If you are a businessman they will treat you well,” lamented the pilgrim.
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