Nigerian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj lamented on Saturday that they were stranded at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, blaming Arik Air for failing to meet its schedule.
It was gathered that this crippled operations of most of the international hajj operators under the Association for Hajj And Umrah Operators Of Nigeria Lagos zone as scores of intending pilgrims have been sleeping at Mosques and various open places around the airport since Tuesday.
A visit to the new MMIA terminal on Wednesday and Thursday showed pilgrims in their hundreds around the terminal building entrance hanging around, frustrated and helpless as they lamented that they had been without comfort or convenience for days.
It was learnt that intending pilgrims were set to protest at the office of the airline for the treatment meted out to them.
Arik Air is one of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria’s accredited carriers for 2023 hajj exercise.
However, a statement signed by the PR & Communications Manager, Adebanji Ola, stated that the issues were being looked into.
It partly read, “The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria selected Arik Air as the carrier to work with the tour operators for this year’s hajj exercise. The airline was allocated about 10,000 pilgrims spread across Abuja, Lagos and Kano.
“We commenced the airlift of pilgrims in both Abuja and Lagos on Wednesday, June 14, 2023 and we have carried 374 passengers to date. The issues involved in the smooth operation of the airlift are currently being addressed by all parties involved; Arik Air, NAHCON and the Tour Operators.”
Arik Air in the statement assured the pilgrims that as soon as they “resolve the issues within the next 24 hours, the airlift will resume simultaneously in Abuja, Lagos and Kano.”
It added, “We appeal for the understanding of all concerned and apologise for the inconvenience the slow pace of airlift may have caused the intending pilgrims and all the parties involved.”