Airfares surge due to Umrah rush


Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — The airfares from the Indian subcontinent to Jeddah and Madinah peaked with the rush of Umrah pilgrims heading to the Kingdom ahead of the Eid Milad-u-Nabi.

The festival of Milad-u-Nabi commemorates the birth of the holy prophet (peace be upon him) on Rabiul Awwal 12 (Nov. 30 this year) and many Asian Muslims are eager to perform Umrah during the month.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) never encouraged the celebration of his birth nor did his companions but the occasion is the most popular Muslim festival in most parts of the world after Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.

The flights from most of cities in South Asia to Jeddah are overbooked while thousands have been waiting for seats ahead of Mild-u-Nabi, which is only a few days away, according to travel industry sources.

Interestingly, people who cannot make it to Madinah before 12th of Rabiul Awwal will be satisfied with spending some of the remaining days of the month in Prophet’s city.

Rabiul Awal is the most preferred month for Umrah pilgrims, especially South Asians, after the holy month of Ramadan. Many people have been arriving in groups to celebrate the day in the holy cities, said a tour operator.

Due to high demand, all major airlines raised prices to Jeddah. The Umrah package that used to cost 32,000 Indian rupees from the southern states is now hovering above 55,000 rupees, according to the tour operators.

“There are pilgrims who are willing to bear double the cost for a Umrah package ahead of Rabiul Awwal 12,” said Mohammed Masrat of Al-Quba Travel in Hyderabad, India.

“We normally charge 65,000 Pakistani rupees for the Umrah package from Lahore, but due to the current rush prices surged to 85,000 rupees,» Irfan Malik of Bukhari Travels, a leading travel agency in Lahore, told Saudi Gazette over the phone.

“There is a marked increase in Umrah traffic from the start of this month,” said Ali Osman, manager of Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

The Kingdom’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has warned Muslims against celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH) saying that it was a superstitious innovation that was illegally added to the religion.

“It is a bid›a (a sinful innovation) that crept into Islam after the first three centuries when the companions and their successors lived,” the grand mufti said during one of his sermons.