Umrah tour operators hit by flight cancellations

Umrah tour operators hit by flight cancellations
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SRINAGAR: Cancelation of flights at Srinagar airport due to inclement weather has made a number of Umrah tour operators bleed losses since January this year. About Rs 80 lakh has been lost due to cancellation of flights that had to carry pilgrims to Delhi.
According to Umar Nazir, General Secretary of All Jammu and Kashmir Haj Umrah Tour Operators Association, nearly a dozen operators have suffered irreparable losses. He said the cancellation of Srinagar-Delhi flights grounds pilgrims in Srinagar and they cannot board the connecting Delhi to Jeddah flight.
“So, one cancellation leads to another, for which the operator is in no way responsible, yet he has to pay. The Srinagar-Delhi flight is reimbursed, but the Delhi-Jeddah one is never. An operator has to pay from his own pockets for the next booking,” he said.
Umar cited an instance of an operator who had to pay for 22 pilgrims from his pocket after their Srinagar-Delhi flight got cancelled. He said the operator even had to pay additional amount for cancellation of hotel accommodation in Makkah and Madinah.
“This has led to a loss of Rs 80 lakh, on aggregate, to nearly a dozen operators,” he said and added that many operators have to either borrow money or sell assets to reimburse the pilgrims.
The number of Umrah pilgrims has been going up for many years now. Compared to last year, the number has gone up by 75 percent, Omar said. He said last year some 2,000 pilgrims were sent to Umrah, but this year 3,500 pilgrims booked tickets. “Despite this, no mechanism has been developed to prevent our losses,” he said.
“Pilgrims do not understand. Airlines who take passengers from Delhi to Jeddah refuse to understand. We are caught in between,” he said.
Now the operators are mulling to negotiate terms of cancellation of flights with pilgrims at the time of booking their tickets. Umar said they are also identifying modalities to have passenger insurance that can cover costs of cancelation.
He also said that the losses can be plugged if aircraft fly from Srinagar to Jeddah directly.