Saudi Arabia promises to fix Hajj booking system because British pilgrims are left without flights and visas | World News

Saudi Arabia has promised to secure alternative flights for pilgrims to the Hajj this year after technical problems on its new travel portal disrupted many people’s plans.

British Muslims told Sky News they paid thousands of pounds for Hajj packages but were left without flights or visas.

The Hajj and Umrah ministries said they are “working to secure alternative flights and additional seats for pilgrims wishing to visit Saudi Arabia from the UK, the United States of America and European countries.

“It is also ensuring the immediate issuance of visas to enter the UK. The Department is in regular contact with those affected by the limited capacity and technical difficulties that pilgrims face when they arrive. using the web portal.”

Earlier this month and just four weeks before the start of the Hajj, Saudi Arabia launched Motawif, the new portal, aimed at automating and streamlining the Hajj, an Islamic pilgrimage in which Muslims perform a times in life.

The portal eliminates UK-based tour operators, who typically organize trips for around 25,000 pilgrims each year.

Allegations of fraud

Saudi Arabia has long complained about fraud in the UK’s hajj tourism industry, which has a history of illegal agents running away with thousands of pounds of pilgrims’ money, and warned reported that an automated system would help tackle fraud and make Hajj more accessible.

But many of those using the portal told Sky News they felt like guinea pigs in the pilot program and that the absence of UK-based tour operators made them feel like found revealed.

Read more: British Muslims uproar over Hajj . tourism chaos

Momina Khatun, due to travel on Sunday, said Wembley-based tour operator Abdel Rehman Helbawi was still assisting the pilgrims.

“We got a lot of help from him. He hosted webinars with tips on what to do and where to go. It really helped us prepare and make sure we were prepared. I’m ready for this,” she told Sky News.

Mr. Helbawi’s Dome Tours, a licensed hajj operator, has been operating hajj packages for over 20 years. Momina says the company’s expertise is crucial to maintaining the confidence of pilgrims ahead of such an important journey.

One couple told Sky News that the stress of waiting for Motawif’s updates was too much so they abandoned their plans and went on holiday to Egypt instead.

Another pilgrim said her flight date had changed by a week, meaning it would take her seven days of her planned stay in Saudi Arabia.

Support groups

Some have set up their own WhatsApp groups to support each other and share complaint procedures, swap hotel rooms, and there are even people who live near the airport offering available rooms to those who see their flight. Their flight was cancelled.

Saudi Arabia said the emergency solution package aims to address all the challenges faced by pilgrims, to ensure that every pilgrim chosen for this year, has the opportunity to perform the Hajj. and visit holy sites. It has promised to follow up with travelers to ensure care services are provided.

Many WhatsApp groups are now showing a message stating that issues are being resolved quickly.

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