PIA Announces Pre-Hajj Operation Schedule and Fares for Pilgrims

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has announced that its pre-Hajj operations will begin on May 21 and continue until August 12. Over the course of this period, the national carrier will transport 38,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.

According to the PIA Hajj circular, the pre-Hajj operation will begin on the 1st of Zilqad and continue until the 4th of Zilhajj, 1444, which corresponds to the Gregorian date of May 21 to June 22, 2023 (subject to moon sighting).

The national flag carrier has chosen to charge fares in US dollars for the second consecutive year and has set the prices for pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia under the private Hajj scheme between $870 and $1180 for the Southern region, which includes Karachi, Quetta, Sukkur, and Hyderabad.

This choice was made in response to the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony’s announcement on Friday that pilgrims paying in US dollars would receive a special 50% allocation under the Government Hajj Scheme-2023 due to the severe shortage of the currency in the nation, where foreign exchange reserves have fallen to dangerously low levels.

The pilgrims from the northern region paid between $910 and $1,220 for their airline tickets. Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Multan, and other cities are located in the northern region. The total cost of the government-sponsored Hajj pilgrimage would be Rs1.25 million.

When flying pilgrims to Jeddah and Madinah for the Hajj, PIA will operate Boeing 777 and Airbus 320 aircraft. For those who would pay their dues in US dollars, the Ministry of Religious Affairs had previously decided to reserve a 25% Hajj quota. However, the finance ministry’s refusal to contribute $2 billion for Hajj expenses forced the authorities to review their policy.

In a recent meeting with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Minister for Religious Affairs Muti Abdul Shukoor pleaded with Dar to instruct the ministry to release the funds. Dar assured the minister that he would do everything in his power to help raise foreign currency to cover the government’s costs associated with the Hajj, but he also mentioned that the previous administration’s agreements with the IMF were restricting their options.

Each pilgrim under the government scheme will be required to pay Rs1.1 million to the ministry. However, if the rupee continues to decline, the Hajj expenses could increase to Rs1.3 million.

The sources went on to say that the Saudi Arabian government is raising the Hajj tax from 18% to 20%. This year, PIA is expected to fly 38,000 pilgrims to the Holy Hijaz while Saudi Airlines is expected to fly 44,000. The remaining pilgrims will fly to Saudi Arabia on two private airlines with bases in Pakistan.

Written by Imad Khan

Imad Khan has the skills and experience to deliver top-notch content that informs, engages, and inspires. He oftens explores nature in his free time.