Complaints about KAIA



THE Haj season has ended successfully. No major incidents have been reported during the peak days of Haj when more than 2.3 million Muslims from within the Kingdom abroad attended the annual event in Makkah and the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.

However, King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah, the main gateway for pilgrims, remained the weakest point in the whole Haj operation. During a surprise visit to the airport's Haj Terminal, Deputy Emir of Makkah Prince Abdullah Bin Bandar witnessed the real nature of services there.

The media tried to mislead the government official before the visit, giving a rosy picture of the services rendered to the pilgrims. It was reported that the pilgrims had been accorded a red carpet welcome at the airport and given gifts.

The situation at KAIA showed as if the Haj season came all of a sudden without giving the authorities enough time to make necessary preparations and that the season should have come after two or three months. It is quite shameful to see the pilgrims, who we call the guests of God, describing painful stories of mistreatment and poor services at the airport.

We have been hearing complaints from Hajis that they had to wait several hours in the queue to get immigration and customs procedures completed. They also complain about poor air-conditioning at the Haj Terminal, malfunctioning of the baggage carousel and other shortcomings in services.

I know very well that some officials will come and justify the shortcomings saying the old airport lacked facilities and services and the new airport, which is almost ready, will solve all the problems. My question is what is the relation between the old airport’s narrowness and its air-conditioning system, shortage in drinking water supply and lack of wheelchairs to carry people with special needs.

The pilgrims spent several days in Mina and Arafat enjoying an atmosphere of peace and tranquility and engaging in prayers and meditation. Citizens and residents celebrated Eid Al-Adha with utmost happiness with their friends and relatives and took part in the Eid prayers.

After performing the Haj rituals and enjoying the Eid vacation, people rushed to the airport to catch flights to their respective destinations. When they reached at KAIA, they faced the usual mess. Many flights have been canceled and others have been delayed, leaving the passengers in disarray. We can also see long queues in front of check-in counters because of the malfunctioning of luggage conveyors.

I am very sorry to say that many Hajis and visitors have left the Kingdom with a disgusting impression. We should ask whether this poor service was limited to Jeddah airport alone. The answer is a big NO. The problem affected even passengers outside the Kingdom and at domestic airports.

Many passengers abroad were waiting at foreign airports for their flights to arrive from Jeddah. As a result of the crisis at KAIA, their flights were delayed and the passengers remained stranded at foreign and other Saudis airports for several hours.

This chaos and confusion at KAIA is created due to a lack of proper planning for this huge event when nearly 2 million foreign pilgrims arrive from all over the world. We see the repetition of the same problems and obstacles every year because we insist on conventional solutions.

My previous article was directly addressing Capt. Abdul Kareem Al-Tamimi, president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation, and I hope that GACA would respond positively to the proposals I have made in that article or at least would give a reply.

I have made two proposals: one was to convert the Department of Haj and Umrah to an authority in order to provide better services to the growing number of pilgrims who come to the country every year to perform their religious rites. We need implementation of big projects and foolproof operations at the airport to achieve better results and resolve problems.

The second proposal was to appoint Al-Harthi Exhibitions or any other company or place to receive the luggage of pilgrims, at least a day before their departure, until we move to the new airport. All airlines must be asked to follow this rule.

Some institutions and organizations make their countries proud with their commendable and unique services. I believe that KAIA does not deserve to be named after King Abdul Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, in light of its present condition. It also does not represent the glorious position of the Kingdom as the heartland of the Islamic world.