A collective boycott: 51 Hajj companies boycott Saudia for transporting pilgrims
A total of 51 domestic Haj service companies have signed an undertaking never to allow Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) transport pilgrims registered with them from all over the country, the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry announced on Monday.
"A total of 51 domestic Haj campaigns serving more than 35,000 pilgrims have said they would not work with Saudia to transport their pilgrims,” it said in a statement
A member of the chamber's board of directors who did not want to be identified said the companies claimed Saudia had refused to meet with them. "On several occasions, Saudia had refused to respond to the requests of the domestic Haj companies for meetings to discuss the problems they had been experiencing," he said.
There are 204 domestic Haj companies serving the local pilgrims. Around 60 percent of them transport their pilgrims on Saudia's domestic flights.
Saad Al-Qurashi, another member of the chamber's board of directors, said Saudia was imposing high fares without providing any services to these companies in return.
He said: "This will smash our promise to arrange low-cost Haj pilgrimages this year.
“We have signed a code of ethics to this effect that we will not be able to honor."
Al-Qurashi said domestic Haj companies are determined to provide pilgrims with the best of services that will enable them to perform their rituals in peace and comfort.
"However we may not be able to do this given Saudia's high domestic ticket fares," he said.
Al-Qurashi was astonished that the price of a return ticket from Riyadh to Jeddah was SR1,500 and Dammam to Jeddah was SR1,600.
"These are very high prices which will make the low-cost Haj impossible," he said.
Al-Qurashi threatened that they would be obliged to opt for land transport if Saudia was not willing to reduce the price of its domestic tickets.
He said: “Saudia is the only air carrier working in the transportation of pilgrims.
“We may leave it completely and transport our pilgrims by land.”
He said they will not wait long for Saudia to respond to their demands and will immediately make plans to transport their domestic pilgrims by land, which is 70 percent cheaper than traveling by air.
"Any pilgrim who wants to fly by air should do this on his own. We will not be responsible for him," he said.
Al-Qurashi said their friction with Saudia is not new. "We have met more than once with them in the past but the resolutions and recommendations of these meetings were never executed," he said.
He said Saudia's flight schedules were not suitable for domestic travelers, especially those returning home after performing Haj or Umrah. He called on Saudia to announce its flight schedules very early.
Al-Qurashi asked the national carrier to revise the price of its tickets and to increase the number of domestic flights to be able to meet the rising demand for its services.