Emirates Airline announced an increase in daily flights to Jeddah and Medina to support the large number of Hajj pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia this year following two years of lighter traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dubai-based airline will deploy 31 additional flights to Jeddah and double the daily flights to Medina from June 23 to July 20.
The move reportedly comes after the Kingdom announced an increase in the number of pilgrims to one million this year. It came after COVID-19 compelled Saudi officials to reduce the number of participants in line with global practices.
Usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, about 2.5 million people participated in 2019. However, in 2020, authorities announced they would only let 1,000 pilgrims take part.
The Hajj consists of a series of religious rituals that are completed over five days in Islam’s holiest city, Mecca, and surrounding areas of western Saudi Arabia.
This year’s pilgrimage will be limited to vaccinated Muslims under the age 65, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced recently.
Those coming from outside of the Kingdom must apply for Hajj visas and are required to submit a negative COVID-19 PCR result from a test taken within 72 hours of travel.
Statistics on arriving and departing pilgrims in Medina, issued by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on Tuesday, showed that 156,828 pilgrims have arrived through the Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Medina since receiving the first Hajj, while the land immigration center received 13,097 pilgrims who arrived in the city through land border crossings.
Emirates is reportedly seeing strong demand for Hajj travel from Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia, the UK, US, the UAE and Algeria.
A special ‘Hajj team’ will be arranged to assist pilgrims, Emirates said in a statement.
This includes a dedicated check-in and transfer counter, ablution facilities, providing unperfumed towels, and procedures to facilitate the changing of the Ihram robes.
The flight’s on-board entertainment system will also feature a Hajj video that covers safety, general formalities and information about performing the pilgrimage, in addition to a Holy Quran channel, the statement clarified
Up to five liters of holy water, Zamzam, can be checked in for travel.