Umrah Airfare Hiked 150%

JEDDAH – Airfares from India to Jeddah have increased by as much as 150 percent in view of the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH) on Jan. 14.

According to travel agents in India, Saudi diplomatic missions are issuing Umrah visas in the Hijri month of Rabi Al-Awwal for the first time. This explains the surge in Umrah visa applications at around the time of the “Milad Nabawi” (Arabic for Prophet’s birthday).

Many pilgrims, agents say, are taking advantage of the coinciding date and heading for Madinah before embarking on Umrah.

Visa applications are being approved at a much faster pace by the Haj Ministry thanks to the newly introduced electronic services, which also explains the influx of applications. Flights from most Indian cities to Jeddah are already overbooked, said airline officials.

Flights from Jeddah to Madinah are booked until the end of the month since huge numbers of pilgrims who cannot make it to Madinah in time for the anniversary intend to spend the rest of the Hijri month in the city.

Prices on almost all major international airlines have gone up as a result of this surge in demand.

A ticket from Hyderabad to Jeddah that typically cost Rs 21,000 (SR1,270) before is now exceeding Rs 50,000 (SR3,000).

Waiting lists are closed and even business class tickets have been sold out until the end of the month.

“We have at least 2,000 pilgrims flying to Jeddah at any given time. We now see pilgrims frantically trying to get to the Kingdom in time for the Prophet’s birthday,” said Mohammed Shoaib and Mohammed Adeeb of Link Travels in Hyderabad, who have been in the airline business for the last 20 years.

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